Basha hoops: Realizing their potential - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Basha hoops: Realizing their potential

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Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 12:55 pm, Sat Jan 7, 2012.

The buzzword "potential" has flown around Basha's Torren Jones and Jaron Hopkins for years.

Jones received a basketball scholarship offer from Arizona before high school, and both players were on varsity as freshmen.

They learned last year, though, that potential doesn't always equal production.

When star Judd Welfringer unexpectedly transferred out of state, Jones and Hopkins were handed the keys to the team as sophomores.

Although some bad luck played into it - Basha lost eight games by five points or fewer - Jones and Hopkins admit they weren't quite ready for "prime time." The Bears finished 12-14 and didn't make the 5A Division I state tournament.

"It was a tough year," Jones said. "If we didn't get it done, the team didn't get it done. It was really thrown upon us. We were caught by surprise. We went into the season not understanding that basically every game counted on how we (Jones and Hopkins) played."

Said Hopkins: "We were just not mature enough."

The pair - juniors now - say they're ready, and so far, the results have backed it up.

Basha is 14-1 heading into Friday night's game against Highland, and is ranked No. 2 in Division I by the Tribune. The Bears' only loss came by four points to Leesburg (Fla.) in the Kingdom of the Sun tournament in Florida. The team has a two-point win against Laveen Cesar Chavez on its resume, and is already thinking big.

The addition of forward Maurice Kirby via transfer from Poston Butte has given the team a state championship vision. Or, more specifically, visions.

"This year and next," Jones said. "Back-to-back. Everyone's on the same page. We're going to get it this year and get it next year."

The goal is realistic because the team does not have a senior on its roster.

Hopkins is averaging 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 5.3 steals per game. Jones is adding 18.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. Long-range shooter Nathan Markovich adds 10.7 points per game, while Kirby averages 7.4 points and 7.6 rebounds.

Basha employs a full-court press to take advantage of its athleticism, and it often leads to easy baskets.

"We're averaging, like, 18 steals a game and not turning the ball over in transition, so that's really helping us," Hopkins said.

Basha coach Brad Pinter said last year was tough, especially when leading scorer Anthony Hasenstein was lost for two weeks in early January with an ankle injury,

Pinter had one-on-one talks with his players following the season, and could see by the summer that his group was beginning to flourish.

"Torren's had a great year, and Jaron also," he said. "It's consistent, game after game after game. To see them mature as individuals and as basketball players, to see that consistency, has been really helpful. Even a guy like Nathan has grown a lot as a player. It is fun as a coach to see that, to see the growth in the kids."

For many teams, setting sights on a title one year after finishing under .500 would seem silly. It may sound strange, but the Bears are dead set on it.

"We're not going to let anything stop us," Kirby said.

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