Regardless of the calendar month, basketball takes place in Rio Rancho


The high school basketball season for the Rio Rancho varsity boys’ teams ended March 5 in the Round of 16, when the 11th-seeded Cleveland High Boys lost to Los Lunas and the Rams, seventh seed, lost at home to Carlsbad.

Three months later, their head coaches seem more than ready to get their teams back on the hardwood, as they’ve already seen progress through open gyms, tournaments and camps – including the state camp of San Diego, where CHS coach Sean Jimenez took his players in early June.

Rams coach Wally Salata, left, and Storm coach Sean Jimenez were masked ahead of their Feb. 1 meeting at the RAC, but you can tell they’re smiling anyway. (photo Heron)

Rams of Rio Rancho

Wally Salata’s final season — his 13th at the helm of the RRHS men’s basketball program — ended after a 49-47 loss, which could have ended in favor of the Rams if Mikey’s 3-point shot Wood had fallen through the rim instead. to remove it.

Salata’s second home is the Rams Athletic Center, where he recently supervised more than 100 young campers honing their hoops skills.

In his fourth decade as a high school coach, and — after stints of four years or less at, in order, Los Lunas, St. Pius X and Rio Grande — Salata has put the Rams’ program back on track. .

Of course, that took time: The Rams had lost records in their first five seasons, the first of which coincided with the opening of Cleveland High. In those first five seasons, the Rams were 52-81.

They haven’t had a losing record since that fateful fifth season, 2013-14, and after going 23-9 in 2014-15, went 19-12 and won the state championship in 2015-16. , despite entering the 16-tournament squad as the 11th seed.

Last season, which ended in two losses, he earned his 300th career coaching victory at Cleveland High School. Going into the 2022-23 season, his training diary reads 301-311.

The 2022-23 team — albeit without its two returning “big guys,” Austin Ford and Maddox Presser — went 2-2 at the New Mexico Games and has smaller tournaments coming up in Santa Fe, Las Cruces and New Mexico. Sandia Prep.

Salata has also put his players to work in youth camps, knowing that one day some of those youngsters will play for him as the Rams.

Cleveland Storm

Jimenez also found time to chat during a youth camp at his gymnasium, affectionately known as Thunderdome.

He had at least 40 children at his camp from June 6-9.

Jimenez’s adventure in San Diego marked the fifth time he’d had the storm at SDSU team camp, mostly because he’s a longtime friend of Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher.

“We went 2-3; two of the losses were close games,” Jimenez said. “First, we lost by 25 to one of the best teams in California, La Casa Canyon. We played hard.

Why go to San Diego, he was asked.

“When we go on the road, we go there for seven days. We play three days, but we do practices, we go to the beach and just build team chemistry, these kids get to know each other.

This concept of team cohesion is important, he said.

“The year before, we lost a lot of kids from our state championship. So now we’re trying to shape our group together, which didn’t know each other and couldn’t play in out-of-state tournaments (during the pandemic), and so I think by going to those tournaments, we build our team chemistry and how/where the kids like the ball on the pitch.

“It’s an underrated thing in basketball,” he explained. “Last year, our guys didn’t know: do you want to go to 3? Do you want to run to the edge? And it was kind of a feeling process. So going to San Diego, those are games to play; we go to the leisure center and we play against adults, we play on the beach. They have to be together for seven straight days, so it’s Cleveland Storm University for seven straight days, 24 hours a day.”

He also reported that his team beat visiting La Cueva in a summer league on June 6.

“La Cueva is supposed to be one of the top two teams in the state next year,” he added, happy to see his team beat the Bears.

Although the Storm didn’t play the New Mexico Games at the end of May, they are headed to Sandia Prep camp and then Phoenix.

Although the Storm have lost two seniors (Cole Savage and Antonio Avila), another talented player (Elijah Brody) is heading to West Mesa, where his father, Landrick Brody, is the Mustangs’ new football coach.

“Let me tell you this: our C team has five kids ages 6-5 or older; you put them next to our university, you’d think they’re our university.

Looking ahead, he says, “We’re going to have a lot more fight in us. We’re going to have more team chemistry. We will understand each other better. »

Jimenez’s view: “Coaches playing time is our training time; this is where we win. Games, players win. We let them run – obviously you make your adjustments,” he said. “But it’s a game of players: I think coaches get way too much credit for wins and way too much blame for losses. And that’s the nature of the beast.

“We are going to be small: our biggest child is Josiah, who is 6-3 – so we have to play fast, we have to play physically and we have to bounce back.”

Want to see hoops?

“Wally and I are organizing the City of Vision tournament (June 30-July 2). We have about 40 teams in there,” he said.

It will be a round-robin type format, with no props and each team getting six games, with no trophies awarded.

“We had a very good turnout last year and we expect a good turnout this year.”

Watch for the next editions of Observer for more details on games, times and locations.

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