Greyhills hoops teams meeting challenges

By Candace Begody
Navajo Times

ROUGH ROCK, Ariz., Jan. 20, 2011

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(Times photo - Leigh T. Jimmie)

Greyhills' Sheldon Shepard (32) works the ball against Tuba City's Malcolm Boone (42) Jan. 13 in Tuba City. Greyhills defeated Tuba City, 69-64.




Despite the challenges that result from all their starters graduating last year, the Greyhills Academy Lady Knights are still fighting.

"Considering I do have a young team," said Glenda Nez, second-year head coach of the girls' team, "they're still fighting. I'm proud of them because they have a lot of heart."

The Lady Knights are currently 3-2 in the 2A North Region and 2-8 overall. Their losses are against Piûon and Red Mesa. Their wins are against Many Farms twice and Rough Rock.

Last year, the Knights were the 2A North runners-up and had a year-end conference record of 13-1. Though four seniors return from last year's lineup, only two have varsity experience.

April Blackhat, a senior point guard, leads the team in scoring, averaging 25 points per game. Allison Satler, a senior center, leads in rebounding.

Even with the two returning, Nez said the team is struggling to find a leader.

"They have potential but they don't have anyone to look up to this season," Nez said. "They are struggling to find a leader and we're hurting because we don't have anyone directing traffic out there."

Last year, there were more natural leaders on the team, Nez said.

"The girls were able to encourage each other on the floor and they corrected themselves during practice and during the games," she said. "I didn't have to get after them as much."

The team's goal is to make it to the first round of the state tournament, said Nez. Though she predicts the team to be seeded at the bottom and matched up against the top teams in the state, Nez said, "We just want to match up with the team even though we know it'll be an uphill climb."

Boys

On the boys' side, a new coach has brought a whole new program.

The Knights welcomed back Tom Bizardi, an alumnus of Greyhills Academy who began coaching in 2003 and then left in 2005 to obtain his master's degree from Northern Arizona University.

He is working to restructure the whole program.

"We are structuring our game with their strength and speed," Bizardi said. "Everything is new for them. They've never been in a program that was disciplined and where coaches were emphasizing basic things such as passing and form shooting."




In addition to brushing up on their fundamentals, the team is focusing on a strong defense.

"We're not about letting teams score over 60 points," said Bizardi. "We want to hold them below that. We're not going to be on every night, as far as shooting well, so our defense has to take care of us. But, of course, we will take what we can on the offensive end."

Bizardi did not name any key players.

"I make sure the kids enjoy the win as a team," he said. "We are a very balanced program so we don't emphasize who the best players are. Everyone has to be a penetrator or shooter and we have to make sure we get stops and don't let anyone score on us.

"We're going to rise together," he added.

Though Bizardi did not experience the state playoffs as a Greyhills player, he did coach the 2005 team to a 3A state runner-up title. They lost by 9 points to Fountain Hills. He also coached the 2004 team to the final four of the state tournament.

"It's about making these kids believe they can play at that level," he said. "At first they were really hesitant and they didn't believe that they could but they have the confidence now and are starting to believe."

Having obtained his master's degree, Bizardi is also encouraging his players to attend higher education.

"I've had to find out the hard way, not knowing anything about college," he said. "And now that I am here, I am trying to show them what opportunities will help them. Making them believe in something now will help them believe in themselves later on after high school."

For junior Clayton Nez, a post player, there is one word he can say with confidence.

"Believe," he said. "Believe in what we can do and he knows we can do it. It wasn't anything that crossed our minds before.

"Last year, we had more free time and we slacked off, but this year that went out the door," Nez, a first-year varsity player, added. "We need to keep giving it our all because we do have a good team."

The Knights are now 7-6 overall.

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