Jason Apodaca has a blueprint for success at Canyon del Oro High School that he hopes is one step closer to fruition this fall.
Apodaca, who enters his second season as the Dorados’ boys basketball coach after working for Brian Peabody at Pima Community College, believes this year’s team has a shot at achieving success on the hardwood. That path to success has grown from last year’s 8-16 showing thanks to a cast of seven seniors who are ready to guide CDO to its first playoff berth since 2015.
Apodaca is confident that seniors, like guards Jano Medina and Antonio Vasquez, have the right mixture of talent and leadership, to help the team reach new heights this winter.
“I’m super excited,” Apodaca said. “We did a lot of offseason work. We lifted, we had our first real summer together, because I got hired real late last year. Each level played 30 games. Everyone’s serious-minded, ready to go, and we should be a huge advantage.”
Part of Apodaca’s enthusiasm comes from having each of his top three scorers, in Vasquez (10.4 points per game), Tyler Lerew (9.8) and Medina (7.5) back this season.
That excitement also stems from Apodaca’s confidence in his team’s ability to grow as a collective this year after taking their lumps a season ago.
The former junior college assistant said he learned a lot about the art of coaching last season, remembering how difficult it can be to build a program from the ground up.
“Last year taught me a lot about patience, and building a program up,” Apodaca said. “This program slipped for a little while. And now, being new, you just have to be patient and let the kids understand that you’re here for the long haul. It took them a good year to understand where we’re coming from and what we do, and what our expectations are.”
The key to reaching the postseason rests in the team’s ability to take care of the ball on offense while executing proper defensive schemes, according to Medina.
The senior point guard is excited about the way the team has practiced so far this fall, with players buying in to Apodaca’s coaching philosophy from the get-go.
“This team’s success is going to be more about our work ethic, mostly, because we’re not the biggest team, but we’re one of the quickest teams in Tucson right now,” Medina said. “We’re all in it right now, with the hustle balls and the 50-50, we’re going for that every game, so that’s our main goal.”
The key to the team’s ebbing arc towards success stems from the work put in during the offseason, which has reinforced their bond heading into the season.
“We’ve grown so much over the last year or so, just as a group together, not only getting stronger as brothers, but we’re giving our all every single game,” Vasquez said. “And I think that’s what’s most important, is that we’re giving it our all every single game, no matter what the score is.”
It’s that teamwide drive to succeed that excites Apodaca, as players like Medina have set the tone in practice for younger players, pushing them to work harder and smarter in practice.
He’s confident the Dorados will turn a corner in 2019, bringing a sense of pride back to a program that’s been devoid of it for a long time.
The CDO boys are off to a rough start so far this year, falling to Tucson High, Pueblo twice and Nogales during the Salpointe Tip-Off Classic in November. The Dorados did score a win against Desert View.
Since the invitational, the Dorados stand at 3-4 on the season, and 1-0 in conference play.