Julius Marquez, starting forward who is quick, nimble, and smart under the basket. Marquez is quick on his toes for an easy put back. I've seen this kid physically and aggresively hussle in order to get the "ball back in the hoop." That relentlessness is what separates Julius from the rest. You can't play in the paint and hope you get the two, you make it happen. This is the attitude Marquez creates. He's committed to his team and coach. As a senior on the team, his leadership is apparent, 'Never give up!'
JT Lopez, 'Mr. Hussle', that's the nickname I have officially given him. Lol. There's never been a game that this kid hasn't landed on the floor, ran into the pads on the sideline wall, taken a charge (his defense is always more than 100%), while at the same time, gracefully pulling up for a 10 foot jumper and scoring! Lopez, a junior shooting guard, has worked his way to a starter this year and he is definitely showing why Coach Valdez has him on the floor. Not only does he portray a great team attitude, JT boasts a near perfect GPA. JT loves the term student-athlete because this is truly his goal.
Raul Garcia (pictured above in purple) is the teams go-to-guy as he has proven worthy of this title. Playing as a post, Garcia rebounds extremely well and knows how to maneuver his body to get to the bucket. He is smart on transition and can easily hit an outside shot. As a bench players last year, Garcia has risen above and beyond to become a standout. At the start of the season, he was named MVP in two tournaments. He truly is a "Most Valuable Player." The Panthers will need him to be strong tonite and throughout the post-season to continue their success.
Andrew Rangel, point guard and as many call him, GINOBILI, commands the floor with leadership. Only a junior, Rangel will need to take a more aggressive step as he is the one who directs his team. Rangel has a way of being crafty and sneaking in for quick layups. He reminds me of a Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili mix. He is extremely well at tucking in the ball as he goes up for his shot, therefore sending him to freethrow line. Rangel is a good freethrow shooter which has given the Panthers a nice cushion in close games. Great on defense and transition basketball, I see Rangel becoming an even greater contributor to his Panthers.
Tonite the Weslaco Panthers take on an equally talented team in the Harlingen Cardinals (Blog entry Wed, Jan. 20). Tonight will definitely be a packed house. I believe the winner will be determined through number of turnovers and made freethrows. I predict an extremely close game within single digits. I wish both teams and coaches, Gabe Valdez and Greg Yates, the BEST OF LUCK!
** Action shots courtesy of the Mid-Valley Town Crier**