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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Odessa High eager to erase sting of last season - Odessa American: Oavarsity

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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Odessa High eager to erase sting of last season

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Posted: Friday, November 15, 2019 6:30 pm

There is plenty of motivation to go around this season for the Odessa High boys basketball team.

After finishing 8-25 and going winless in District 2-6A play last season, the Bronchos enter the new season anxious to erase the sting from last year’s struggles. To accomplish that, the program will get a fresh start with a new coach.

Neal Welch takes over as the man in charge after coming over from Crowley High School as an assistant coach. He has previous head coaching experience in stops in East Texas and is looking to bring stability as he arrives as the fifth head coach in as many seasons.

“I’m not looking to be a guy that’s a one-and-done and go somewhere else,” Welch said. “I want to bring a system here where guys are held accountable, they play as hard as they can and they do the right things off the floor as well.”

Welch’s team will have a good mix of experience and new faces to help get the team back on track. One of those returners is junior guard Christian Tijerina, who was a second-team all-district selection last season and is ready to erase the sting that last year’s struggles brought.

“I feel like everyone knows that we’re the underdogs in the district,” he said. “Coach Welch cares about us a lot and he wants us to do well just as much as we do after last year.”

Tijerina will be a key part of the up-tempo offense that Welch will implement. There may a number of four-guard lineups in that equation, according to the head coach, who wants to try and use the backcourt depth to his advantage.

“We’re going to try and play a little bit faster,” Welch said. “I’ve always believed that when you have a team that’s not as big, you have to try and win games in other ways. For us, it’s going to be moving the ball up and down the floor fast.”

The Bronchos will look to push the pace but will also have more size in the post as well. Senior Chris Blair and his brother Ayden, a sophomore, arrive after spending last season at Monahans. At 6-foot-8, Chris will be the go-to player down in the post.

“ Most of us have played together of the summer,” Blair said. “I think it’ll help us grow throughout the season. I just want to bring energy, get points in the post, rebound and get the fast break started.”

Even though he’s new to the program, Blair said he’s ready to do his part to help build the Odessa High program back up after a trying last season.

"I definitely want us to try and win more games,” he said. “We just have to have a short-term memory. We just have to forget the bad and move on to the next play and encourage the guy next to you.”

Tijerina agrees with that sentiment and said building that cohesiveness will go a long way in determining how far this team can go.

“We just need to be a family and do this for each other,” he said. “We’re with each other every day. We just need to work harder because it means something more than basketball.”

The Bronchos open the season at 2 p.m. today against Monahans at the Odessa High Fieldhouse. The team will travel to tournaments in Hereford, Glen Rose and locally at Greenwood to highlight the non-district schedule.

Welch emphasizes the need for people to buy in and is pleased with the progress made on that front. At the same time, his message of great effort is the one he wants his team to be consistent about especially at the season gets started.

“It all goes back to effort,” Welch said. “If anyone watches one of our practices, we do everything up-tempo. Everything is timed and that translates to the game and how we want to run.

“We have an acronym for our team, WPH, which stands for ‘we play harder,’ and that’s we want to implement this year.”

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

Odessa, TX

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