It’s never been about ability, really, because he comes from proven bloodlines and has been a highly touted prospect for several years. A gifted ball-handler with great moves, the knack for shredding defenses with penetration, and a frequently successful set shot from outside, Angel Salinas is about to blow up and grow up, right before your eyes.
His main task during two excellent seasons at Econ has been to be able to control his amazing skills, stay in command for 32 minutes, and continue to work on leadership technique. Salinas, son of former North star Peter Salinas, has climbed another rung of the ladder with those nuances, and capped a terrific month of hoops by leading the Jags to the tourney title Thursday.
The club raced past McAllen High, an equally impressive squad for the most part, in the final, with Salinas in control and command all the way. He put a 30-point night on the board with swooping drives and accurate outside shooting, adding eight rebounds and seven assists to help his teammate corral a 77-59 decision. He made almost no mistakes on the floor, getting his friends into the action consistently and sharing the basketball well with all. When Salinas plays at this level. The Jags are hard to beat.
“I have been working on all of that, and the main thing for me is to trust my teammates,” he commented after the trophy was secured. “And I do trust them, when I make a pass, they’re going to score, and we’re all working hard, practicing together a lot. My job is stay calm and help the team stay calm, and make sure we play at our pace, in our style.”
The first two seasons were at times spectacular for this lanky guard, as he always exhibited flashy one-on-moves and a penchant for going on hot streaks to leave opposing defenders grasping for air. His weakness at some junctures was playing so hard, so fast, that he sometimes was prone to turnovers and forced shots. This is something all talented kids have to go through; they see the play and they explode, but have to learn when to do it and when to defer.
Salinas is mastering the adjustments he knows he needs to make, and the result could be fantastic for the Jags. They have perhaps the best squad in the Valley, definitely a candidate for preseason Top 5 honors, maybe more. Johnny Barrientos pairs with Salinas in the backcourt and he has improved a ton this summer. Smooth Saul Alanis is another of the mercurial athletes on the roster who can dominate at times, but drift at others. He and Salinas are learning how to coexist out there, and when they play well together, it’s tough to hang with the Orange.
The team has several effective role players, including Eizer Cavazos (a dozen points against McHigh), Mark Chapa, a big kid with some quickness, and Omar Trevino, a stocky little football veteran who is fearless and pesky. Throw in returning vet Simon Pina, who can do a bit of everything, and Econ has the makings of a juggernaut.
Everyone knows that Angel is the key to the deal, however. The high-strung junior is a very fine prospect, inside and out, and during the summer it was obvious to see that he has made strides in maturity, patience, and decision-making.
“These are my brothers,” he said after the McHigh win, waving a hand in the direction of the celebrating Jags. “Hard work, trust, the whole thing, we’re getting it together and this season is going to be a whole lot of fun.”
Fun indeed. Unless you’re one of the other guards around the league with the difficult job of trying to stay with the whirling dervish of the East Side. Good luck with that.