By Larry Gage
Special to the PRESS
Senior Port Isabel High student/athlete Zaid Calderon is a man in transition. He played linebacker on the Tarpon football team and is now transitioning from that sport to basketball. The Press found Mr. Calderon at practice in Tarpon Gym Monday afternoon and he talked about it all happens.
As a defensive football player Calderon brings a kind of hard-nosed physicality to the hard-court game, and that can make for a very tough defensive player in the indoor game.
“He’s a very good defensive player,” head P.I. boys’ coach Mike Hazelton said this week. “If he goes in things are going to pick up, because you know he’s going to get after it. He’s very intense. I know what I’m going to get when I put him in. He’s going to play as hard as he can. He brings a lot of energy when he’s on the floor. And he’s getting a lot more playing time this year.”
Defense is not complicated and Calderon explained in simple terms how it’s done; “Keep moving your feet, stop reaching in, and stay in front of them.”
This year’s Port Isabel hoops squad seems to have a habit of starting games slowly, and Calderon addressed that aspect of its game.
“Sometimes we come out slow and soft. We just need to come ready to go strong.”
One thing that is surely right with this team is its sense of togetherness.
“Some of us have been playing together since we were small, so we’re close to each other. The chemistry helps a lot in a team sport.”
On offense, “We’re just trying to push the ball down the court and score as much as we can. If we go fast we can catch the other team off-guard and score on the fast breaks.”
That’s what happened in last week’s win at Lyford; “At the half they were up by two points. In the second half we just came out strong … six consecutive fast breaks. We got the lead and just kept pushing the ball.”
Calderon said everyone on the team is healthy and will try to stay that way.
“We’re just working together …and we want to get that district title.”
On defense; “It’s not where we would like it to be but we’ll work on it to make it better. We’ll get there – get our defense together.”
So, Zaid, what kind of a shooting is this current edition of Tarpon hoops?
“We can shoot from wherever. Anytime we have the ball we’ll look for the easy shot, but if there isn’t one we’ll take whatever we can get. If the play’s not there you can drive in or, if they leave you open on the three, you’ve got to take a chance and shoot that.”
Calderon doesn’t consider himself an inside shooter; “I’m more of an outside shooter because I don’t have the height to drive in (to the basket).”
“He brings physicality and an intensity,” Hazelton told the Press. “He’s just going at it the whole time. He never wants to come off the floor. Sometimes I think I’m going to have to scrape him off the floor.”