Parkland men’s basketball team welcomes new head coach
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 02:07
It’s “a Parkland Thing.” That’s the athletic department’s slogan that can be seen across the college’s campus. When it comes to men’s basketball, it is also a Champaign thing.
Earlier this summer, men’s basketball coach and former Champaign Central athlete, Nate Mast resigned to take a position at SIU-Carbondale as head of basketball operations.
Meet the new sheriff in town, Anthony Figueroa. That’s pronounced Fig-A-Row-Uh.
Figueroa, a standout basketball player in his own right, shined at Champaign Centennial before taking his talents to Chicago State.
Figueroa landed a position at St. Thomas More High School as the head basketball coach in April, but decided the Parkland opportunity was too big to pass up. He made the tough decision to resign after a month and a half to give the Cobras a shot.
Prospectus News recently got a chance to talk to Figueroa as well as athletic director Rod Lovett to discuss everything from what lead to Figueroa’s hire to the future of the program.
Prospectus News: What separated Figueroa from the rest of the candidates and ultimately lead to his hire?
Rod Lovett:Truthfully, his enthusiasm for the job. Anthony came across as really wanting to be the head men's basketball coach at PC and understood his duties and responsibilities as the Athletic Academic Monitor.
PN: Who is Anthony Figueroa?
Anthony Figueroa: Anthony Figueroa is a person that would never speak in 3rd person. He’s an intense and passionate person when it comes to, athletics, basketball, in particular in what they represent within translating to the real world, real life, and your academic career. I think athletics are a great way to teach kids responsibility, discipline, accountability, leadership skills and communication skills.
PN: What is your first impression of Parkland and the athletic program?
AF: Well you’d have to go back to probably when I was in high school for my first impression. I was born and raised in Champaign, so when I was in eighth grade, that’s when I really got into organized basketball and thought that I could be ok.
We had a coach, that was our summer coach, and he ended up becoming the head basketball coach here at Parkland. I just remember thinking that this was an awesome place because he was coaching here and then he brought in some good players. He had some guys go to some high major level basketball schools and so you just kind of knew that this was a great place for athletics.
Then as you grow older, you start getting a different first impression which is sustainability; that they’re always competing. So competitive is probably a good word to use when it comes to impression.
PN: Explain the St. Thomas More situation
AF: I was able to be offered and accept that position and was there for about a month, month and a half. I was getting into working with the kids, working with the administration over there. We had already run summer camps. Then not too long after I accepted the position, Nate let it be known that he was leaving here.
It was not an easy decision to go ahead and even apply for the Parkland job because I didn’t want anybody to think that I was ungrateful for the opportunity at St. Thomas More. You don’t get a lot of opportunities and when you do you have to be grateful for them and so I did not want anybody to think that but I talked to the people over there.
They understood which was fantastic. I think they were excited for me. They wished me well. They said they were still going to come out and support me which was great. The kids maybe didn’t see it, but that’s an adult to not-so-adult type of issue but I think ultimately they understood.
PN: What will Figueroa add to Parkland's athletic department?
RL: I think Anthony is a very bright young man who will bring a strong work ethic and high expectation level to go along with his enthusiasm. He has been at the high school, junior college and NCAA level, so he has a varied and extensive experience working with a wide range of students from different backgrounds.
AF: Passion, discipline. Not that these are not already here but that’s what I plan to bring. Passion and discipline on a daily basis. Within that, not just being scary about it or hard-nosed about it but also being friendly with it.
I enjoy working with different people from different backgrounds. I like to smile. Players might not realize that once the season comes, but I like to smile, I like to laugh. I like to interact with people, I like to converse, I like to debate, so all those things.
PN:What would you say is your best coaching trait?
AF: I think I relate to the players. I may be older than them, but I think I still understand some of the things they go through on a day-to-day basis within the classroom, on the court and then outside away from campus. Dealing with girls and having to be out on your own, fend for yourself and cook for yourself and manage your time. I still think I relate pretty well to the guys on that level and I think it allows me to build a relationship where hopefully they’ll want to run through a brick wall for me.
PN: What is the state of your roster as it stands now?