Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hobbs hoops takes lumps, learns from Hobbs Nite League

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs' Jordan Chavarria goes up for a shot during
a Hobbs Nite League game at Tasker Arena.
  It’s been an uphill climb for the Hobbs boys basketball program the previous eight weeks in the Hobbs Nite League.
  Almost each time these incoming Hobbs High School seniors, juniors and sophomores stepped on the court for an HNL game, the Eagles were overmatched physically, athletically and/or mentally – as is usually the case when teenagers face grown men in, or close to, their physical prime.
  Against the best teams in the HNL, it was all three aspects giving Hobbs fits – as was the case when the Eagles’ HNL season came to a close Thursday against Who U Wit in the tournament quarterfinals.

  It was a gauntlet for Hobbs this season of overwhelming size and speed, high-risers who throw down dunks in real life like many of us did on NERF hoops on the back of our room door growing up and sharpshooters who drain 3-pointers like layups.
  And the 2013-14 batch of Hobbs Eagles are going to be so much better off for facing it all this summer.
  It’s an advantage no community in New Mexico has. While other programs shell out the dollars to attend team camps to go play other high school teams, the Eagles stay at home (for the most part) and take some lumps, but play quality competition – even squeezing out some victories.
  Sure, it’s good for Hobbs to also play fellow prep teams. That’s why I liked that the Eagles went to the North Texas Team Camp and hosted their own team camp (the first time they’ve hosted a team camp in my seven years at the News-Sun).
  But playing against guys like former Eagles Ronald Ross, Billy Austin, Juhreece Thompson, Benny Baeza and so on as well as quality players who didn’t play at Hobbs is going to make the current Eagles better.
  It’s going to be interesting to see how Hobbs uses this summer to catapult into the 2013-14 season after losing the majority of last season’s state semifinal team.
  The most notable difference for the Eagles for the upcoming season is they’ll be much smaller, but also much quicker and more balanced as a team. The press should be more effective and the Eagles won’t be dependent on a few for the majority of the team’s scoring – instead having numerous players contribute. However, rebounding will likely be a big issue for the Eagles, particularly limiting second-chance scoring opportunities.
  Hobbs will also be less experienced than last season’s squad, meaning there may be a few bumps in the road early on as players adjust and find their roles. Only Jordan Chavarria and Cayson Meridyth saw any consistent time for the Hobbs varsity last season.
  Both have taken a step forward this summer. Chavarria has improved his post game on the offensive end (his jump hook has really taken off) while Meridyth – a player who was money from mid-range for the Eagles last season – has extended his range to beyond the arc. Both will be cornerstones for the Eagles.
  From there, the Eagles and third-year Hobbs coach Mike Smith will have to fill in the blanks – and there are a lot of pieces to do it with.
  Quick guards Trey Nelson (can really shoot it and is a calming influence on the court despite his lack of size) and Andre Foster (just going to be a junior, is blazing quick and has maybe the highest ceiling when it comes to potential on the roster) will be leaned upon this season to make the jump from JV to varsity and have an impact.
  Forwards Adrian Trevino and Fernando Montes are complete opposites when it comes to style of play (Trevino is more finesse and has a soft touch from the perimeter while Montes uses his physical ability, strength and hustle to make a difference on the court) but both can make a huge difference for the Eagles while post Gabriel Jurado has the chance to be a difference maker on both ends of the court with his height (I believe he’s around 6-foot-3) and incredibly long reach.
  That’s not even mentioning a very talented sophomore class that will have guys likely up on the varsity next season – some even contributing.
  There is still almost four months until prep basketball season starts for the Eagles to continue to work and improve, but these last two months facing a difficult slate of HNL teams improved their chances for having a successful 2013-14 season.

(Editor's note: This column appeared in Sunday's edition of the Hobbs News-Sun. To get content like this and more on athletic teams in Lea County, get a hard copy or online subscription to the News-Sun by calling 575-393-2123.)