WHAT TO DO FOR AN ENCORE: Salazar Looks to Build on Aldine's Playoff Appearance
Coach Jennifer Salazar and the Aldine girls' basketball team caught lightning in a bottle last season, reaching the postseason for the first time in two decades.
The 'Stangs went 9-5 in district play to tie Dekaney for third place. Aldine saw its magical season end at the hands of Klein Collins, 56-55, in a heartbreaking first-round loss in last year's playoffs.
"When you make the playoffs or hit a goal, you get hungry for more," Salazar said. "You're never really satisfied. What I try to instill in the girls is to keep going a little further. Losing that playoff game by one point in the last 10 seconds was heartbreaking. They still talk about it. I still talk about it."
"You can tell kids to go as hard as they can, so they don't have any regrets. But they have to experience it for themselves. They did last year. Sometimes I remind our seniors that if we made one more free throw; got one more rebound; had one more hustle play or had one more close-out, we would have won that playoff game. I want them to remember how that felt, so they will work so hard that they won't feel that same regret again."
This is a new team, however, as District MVP Aldayshein Adrian is now at Blinn Community College and first-teamer Bobiana Hill transfered to Wheatley.
"Each year, I'm different," Salazar said. "Some kids can take a hard-coaching style and some cannot. I adapt to whatever team I have at that moment. I have to learn to get out of my comfort zone and know I can't coach the same way as I did the year before."
"You have to have a lot of faith and patience to coach," she said. "It's something I've had to learn over time. It's hard to build a culture and break the habits of kids, parents and the community. I'm teaching my girls to give it their all on the court and in the classroom. They have to set their expectations higher."
Back in the huddle for the 2019-2020 campaign are seniors Francisca Ramirez, Yesenia Perez and Makeyel Bowen.
Ramirez will need to find her spots on the perimeter to score, while Perez is the defensive stopper. Bowen will anchor the paint and be in charge of some low-post scoring.
"It's hard to become more of a leader, but it's coming slowly but surely." Perez said. "You have to lead people differently. What I'm learning from coach that I will take on for the rest of my life is to have a winning mentality, keep your composure and fight through adversity."
Salazar has high expectations for freshman guard Darria Haynes, who has a huge upside. Genesis Castillo and Haley Traylor will also play bigger roles this season.