By Larry Gage
Special to the PRESS
Cole Pinkerton has played his final basketball game as a Port Isabel Tarpon.
He was brought up to Varsity in his freshman year and, with his Tarpon team-mates, proceeded to make program history for the next four seasons.
For his efforts Pinkerton has been named to the All-Region IV basketball team, and that on top of being named Co-MVP of District 32-4A for the 2020-’21 season.
The Press met Pinkerton at a local burger restaurant this week and he shared his thoughts on the team milestones he helped establish, and also what it has meant to him to be a student/athlete at Port Isabel High.
“It’s pretty awesome to be a part of that,” Pinkerton said Monday. “The P.I. hoops program wasn’t highly regarded before 2017, and I’m glad that it’s now being recognized.”
It’s been an amazing four-year run for these guys. Coinciding with the start of Pinkerton’s first year of high school and the start of the 2017-’18 season was the arrival of Mike Hazelton as the new Tarpon Varsity head coach.
That first season the Tarpons advanced to the third round of the playoffs for only the second time in school history. One year later the team broke the school record for wins in a single season. For the 2019’20 season the Tarpons matched their furthest advance into the playoffs and again set the team record for wins in a season. And this year Port Isabel won the school’s first district title in boys basketball in 31 years and made it to the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time in program history.
For his part Hazelton was recognized as Coach of the Year for District 32-4A, and Pinkerton paid tribute to his coach.
“He talked to me and I talked to him. There was always communication. He was a very supportive coach. He always had my back. He always helped me out. He’ll get after us if he has to but he also trusts his players to do what they need to do.
Here are the Tarpon players who made the All-District lists;
1st team: Will Camacho, Gilbert Medina.
2nd team: Kaiden Martinez. Newcomer of the Year: Daniel Zamarron. Honorable Mention: Jeffrey Smith, Luis Martinez, Josue Navarro.
Academic All-District: Joey Ricco, Cole Pinkerton, Gilbert Medina, Kaiden Martinez.
Pinkerton agreed that it’s a bitter-sweet time for him. As a soon-to-be-graduated senior his school days are fast coming to an end, and his Varsity basketball career is over.
One of the most important things a high school athlete has to do is keep academics and athletics in proper perspective.
“I think the biggest thing is time management,” Pinkerton said. “When you get out of practice and go home, you’ve got homework to do. They go hand-in-hand but academics have got to come first. If you fail in academics then you’re not allowed to play. A dedicated student/athlete gets it all done.”
Without a doubt, Pinkerton has been one of those dedicated student/athlete all through his high school career. He maintains a straight-A, 3.94 grade-point average with a curriculum that includes college-level courses.
Pinkerton loaded up on the tougher courses last year and says this year the academic trials are less severe.
“My classes aren’t as hard this year. I’ve got AP Environmental Science, AP Calculus, and some college courses also.”
Of course Pinkerton is thinking about college, but is not certain just now which institution of higher learning he’ll be attending next fall.
“I’m still waiting for my financial (aid) package. I’m looking at UT-Austin, University of New Mexico, St. Mary’s (San Antonio), and Baylor.”
Pinkerton believes he may have a future in the basketball program at St. Mary’s and, while he knows he can’t count on anything this far ahead, he’s excited about the possibilities.
“New Mexico reached out to me and I plan to visit Baylor and UT-Austin.”
Pressed to pick one game of his four-year Varsity career as the one he’ll most remember, Pinkerton said, “I think it would have to be the game this year when we beat Crystal City to make it to the regional semi-final, the “Sweet 16.”
As for being eliminated by Boerne in that fourth-round game in Corpus Christi: “They were a very disciplined team. They knew what they were doing and they were very unselfish. Coming to the end of that game, I couldn’t be mad about it. I had too much to be happy about. I’m glad we went down fighting.”
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