It was one of those nights, when the schedule was balky, the attendance sparse, and the parking lot jet black. On a Friday in mid-June, sometimes it just works out that way. Was there anything happening?
Yes, there were some interesting things to be seen at EHS last week despite a flurry of forfeits, a slew of kids gone missing for various reasons.
Summer league hoops was supposed to have Vela-EHS, but with a revision of the schedule the SaberCats ended up paired with McAllen High, three hours after the original arrangement. North meanwhile, was part of a forfeit at the 6:30 slot, meaning that all plans were up in the air.
That, however, was when the noteworthy things went down. Organic, unplanned, serendipitous, and again we are reminded that every now and then, gold mines of information present themselves in the most circuitous ways.
One thing that went down was actually many, courtesy of North sophomore Izaiah Rangel. Amid the smattering of Coogs in the gym, Rangel put on a dunking show that had the group buzzing. Throwing them down off a bounce, off the glass, and with swooping, left-handed windmill power, the leaper was smiling and laughing, making sure his efforts were being committed to video. Doing the tech honors? None other than Natalie Alaniz, the ex North standout who is into her third year of college hoops. Home for the summer, she was on hand to watch her brother, a Coog junior.
So nothing much, but something else again. Rangel has a chance to be the breakout player of the season to come, because he is a superb talent with an upside that can barely be contained. Watch out below.
Later in the night, a couple of Vela kids paired up with two brothers going into their senior season at EHS, and they played a pickup game against a hodgepodge of Mac High guys. Nothing here, right? Not really. Again, one can always learn something from any scenario. The smart money says that pickup ball is nothing but run and gun, street ball without discipline, a waste of time. But The Observer has always been a believer in unstructured basketball, in small doses, for the following reasons.
One has to do with the Law of the Jungle. In unorganized settings, without coaches or clocks, the kids get to freelance, experiment, and see what they can do. And see who’s scared, and who’s not. That means there may not be a lot of passing in an offense (or defense, admittedly, outside of the occasional steal or block). But there is a chance to see who is confident, and who is tentative, who has potential and who is just taking up a spot.
To that end, Harim “Not Hiram” Diaz.
Vela will definitely be able to use his long-range shooting in the coming year, because the dude can flat stick it. He is not going to be a Ryan Garza or Alec de la Cruz, but let it be said that in the right circumstance, he can be an effective marksman from downtown. And with the changing of the guard this season, Diaz – along with brother Josh, as well a varsity returner but not in attendance Friday – is in the mix, make no mistake. He is dangerous.
Also vying for relevance is a SaberCat newcomer with a pedigree. J.D. Velasquez, a junior, comes by his hoops naturally, as his brother J.J. was a terrific player for the Jags back in the day, good enough to log time as a college athlete. The jury is still out on the younger initialed one, but during the informal action he was sharp with the handles, knocked in some bombs, and generally showed that he knows how to play the game.
Time will tell whether he can break into the Vela rotation, but he has a shot. J.D. said that he got into basketball because of his brother, recalling the famous Econ victory over Harlingen back at the C.E. Vail Tourney in La Feria some years ago. J.J. was a star of that breakneck, crowd-pleasing final, and his younger brother noted that when he saw that classic, he was hooked.
Now the EHS kids, Alex and Emilio Hernandez, are lanky streetball types who attack the rim without cessation. With the Bobcats perennially low on depth, the door is wide open for guys to come on and give the team a boost. Those twins can go, and now it’s time to see if they can fit into the team concept well enough to get minutes in the fall. Says here that they will do so.
So, the upshot from a disjointed summer evening is this: when one thinks on first glance that there is nothing happening, the best bet is to hang around, spend the time, and observe. Because nothing might mean something, after all.