Parkland basketball team reloading for high expectations

Adam Vilmin

Staff Writer

School is back in session and right alongside is the return of Parkland Cobra Basketball.

Last year saw the Cobra men’s basketball team take a share of the Mid West Athletic Conference regular season title for the first time in over 20 years.

Even with the success, the Cobras found heartbreak, taking a loss in the Region 24 semi-finals and finishing the season ninth in the NJCAA Division II end of season ranking.

This year finds the Cobras in rebuilding mode and looking to move forward.

“From a player personnel standpoint it’s going to be difficult because we only have two guys back from that team.” coach Anthony Figueroa said. “Though from a program aspect we will build off of that in terms of our expectations, and for the guys we are bringing in that’s part of it.  They came in knowing the expectations of a conference championship.  We will use that in terms of goals and things to keeping building the program with.”

All the fresh faces leaves Figueroa putting together the team to fit his principles of focus.

“Our goal is always to be a fast team, an aggressive team, and attacking team.  We just have to figure out how to do that with this group of guys.  [Offensively] everyone’s going to be a part of it.  We take pride in being a balanced team. Typically if you feel part of the offense, you give a little more on defense.”  Figueroa said.

The team will also be looking to the return of sophomores Austin Howard and Jesse Cantinol to lead the way.

“Jesse started a lot of games for us last year and played a vital role.  Austin didn’t have as much with having some good sophomores in front of him.  When he did, he played well, so we’re confident that he can up his productivity.  First and foremost though from both these guys, we’re looking for leadership,” Figueroa said.

Howard especially will be looking to lead the offense from the one and two guard spots at the beginning of practice.  After a summer of playing in two men’s leagues, as well as a non-stop workout regimen Howard, is looking forward to expectations that begin this week.

“[The first week of practice] is to introduce them to how we play, the style of play.  Just stepping up and being a leader, showing them how we do things by playing my game,” Howard said.

He’s also excited for his upcoming role in the quick striking Cobra scheme.

“I feel like I’m always in attack mode.  I feel like it’s important for the whole team to feel that way.  I’m a shooter, but I’m always looking for an opportunity to be the aggressor, whether its defense or offense.  I feel like I bring a spark to the team to never stop, never back down,” Howard said.

Howard plans to lead by example and isn’t hesitant to set high goals for himself and the Cobras.

“My goals are to be All-American, but also be doing everything this team needs me to get done.  It can be rebounding, scoring, assisting, or guarding the best player on the team.  I want to make sure to get my stock up to transfer on to a four year, and for the team to win the conference, go on to regionals, and make the national tournament,” he said.  “I at least want to make the nationals, because last year we should have. I have faith in the team to get us there,” he added.

Figueroa’s goals aren’t any lower.

“Our goal is to win every game.  That’s how we approach it.  The chances of going undefeated are slim to none, but that’s the mentality you got to have,” Figueroa says. “We’re going to be ready for that.”