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This Parrot’s No One-Trick Pony PDF Print E-mail
Written by San Fernando Valley Sun   
Thursday, 06 February 2014 19:00

Photo Credit: M. Terry / El Sol
Big Bird — Cesar Reyes, a junior, as the Poly High Parrots' basketball team in
the thick of the East Valley League race.

Poly High’s Cesar Reyes Strives To Be More Than Just A Shooter

Hail Cesar? Oh please. My buddy Bill Shakespeare — I call him Bill — did that years ago. Respect Cesar? That’s been a bit longer in coming. At least for this 21st century Cesar, who resides in Sun Valley rather than Rome. At 6-1 and 170 pounds Cesar Reyes is a lean, loose-limbed basketball player at Poly High. The junior guard/swingman is the acknowledged leader of the Parrots, who began the week 18-6 overall and a half-game out of the top spot of the East Valley League.

But the Valley is always chockfull of talent, so it had been harder for Reyes to reach the level of respect his coach Alan Woskanian and others believe he deserves. But that has changed this season. Stopping Reyes, 17, a priority for opponents who have been using a variety of defenses from hard-nosed man-to-man to more exotic matchups like box-and-one to try and keep him from exploding on them offensively. His 2013-14 numbers certainly demand attention. Reyes is averaging just under 20 points a game (19.8) and possesses one of the best looking shots in high school, the kind of form that makes you wonder how he ever misses.

His percentages are similar no matter the distance: 47 percent on two-point shots, 43 percent on three-point shots. Reyes also works at being a complete player, getting his share or rebounds (5.4) and assists (4.8). He plays defense tirelessly and without complaint. If you want to make him uncomfortable, however, suggest the Parrots could be viewed as a one-man gang. We’re a team, he said, one that is committed to get back to a City title game. “We’re trying to get back there again,” Reyes said. “We’re trying to fix some stuff to try and win it this time, not come in second again.

I told the team we have to keep working hard to get there.” Still, fair or not, Reyes is the one Poly guy people want to watch when he takes the shot. The body is usually squared at the basket, the release of the ball from his fingertips in proper rotation can be a thing of beauty — or a nightmare to defend when he’s got a hot game going. Woskanian says Reyes has a “natural” shooter’s touch. Reyes, whose been in love with basketball since he starting heaving up shots as a six-year-old in park and recreation youth leagues, isn’t so sure. “I really wouldn’t say [his shooting touch] is a ‘gift’” he said. “I’ve was working on it a long time …everyone was telling me since I was a little kid that I was good. But I didn’t pay any attention to that.

I just play.” As a sixth-grader, Reyes was on a remarkable youth travel team known as the ARC Gorillas, which nearly won a national championship in 2008. That team was loaded with players who are current high school standouts, including Bryan Polan (Harvard-Westlake), Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Loyola of Los Angeles), Tyler Dorsey (St. John Bosco of Bellflower), and Robert Cartwright (Flintridge Prep of La Canada). Even then Reyes was the “quiet kid with the shooting touch.

” Reyes remembers it differently. “When I was on the team I wasn’t the best player; I would start, but I wasn’t good like Parker or Tyler and them. Now I feel I have developed my game more,” he said. Last March, Reyes electrified onlookers at the Los Angeles City Section Division III championship game at Cal State Dominguez Hills, draining seven three-pointers (in nine attempts) en route to a game high 23 points. Unfortunately for Poly, Reyes also fouled out of the game with 1:42 to play, and the Parrots let the game slip through its other collective fingers, losing to Hamilton High of Los Angeles at the buzzer, 53-51. “It took me a while to get over it,” Reyes said. “I was really upset; I couldn’t believe it — me having fouled out. I was heartbroken. To be that close… it made me work on my game this summer.” Even if Reyes should have expected tighter defensive attention this season, Woskanian believes it has taken him some time to get used to being targeted every game.

"I think he realized (it would happen)…but I don’t think he knew what it meant,” Woskanian said. “People, hold, grab, do anything to put him out of his game. But he stays stable. One thing he will appreciate more this off season is the weight room. For the next level, what he’s seeing now, that is regular defense not just if you are a good shooter. “But that's how good ones become great. Getting that kind of extra attention brings the best out of those kids.

He can feel the pressure sometimes; but I have told him that pressure is a privilege. ‘Every kid in the gym wants to shoot like you, to have the attention.’ Not everyone gets to feel that. It is a privilege.” Sometimes the defensive schemes work, with the success Verdugo Hills had in holding Reyes to 10 points (and scoreless in the fourth quarter) in beating Poly 50-38 back on Jan. 22 at Poly. That win separated the teams in the East Valley League standings entering play this week.

And sometimes the schemes don’t work even when it appears they do. In a recent game against Arleta, Reyes was consistently hounded by the Mustangs defense, with someone following him all over the court as the rest of the team played zone. When Reyes wanted to get a shot off, he often had multiple defenders rushing at him to try and throw him off. Reyes was held to 13 points in the game, which still led the Parrots in scoring.

But Reyes also had six rebounds, five assists and five steals and kept forcing the Mustangs to defend him to provide more scoring opportunities for his teammates. In addition, Reyes nailed a three-pointer toward the end of the first half that gave Poly a 22-19 lead — a lead the Parrots never gave back, going on to win 59-44. “You can’t give him any breathing room,” Arleta Coach Myron Banks said of Reyes afterward.

“He has unlimited range, so you can’t give him any space. If you do he takes advantage of it. Once the ball was released from his hands, you didn’t want him to touch it again. He has improved, a little stronger than last year, but he did those same things on offense as a sophomore. And he’ll keep going the whole game, he won’t stop moving.” And giving Reyes too much attention comes at a price. Woskanian likes to point out that other starters for Poly — Sal Gonzalez, Jacob Payton, Francisco Mariscal and Mario Castaneda — can shoot the ball, too. That is key for Poly.

The Parrots are not a big team, and will not dominate teams on the inside. “We definitely look to Cesar, but we can go other places,’ Woskanian said. Besides filling it up from outside the paint, Poly also depends on a swarming, trapping defense to keep tempos quick and disrupt the opponent’s offensive rhythm. Some of that is still a work in progress. “I think our offense is going to be there,” Reyes said.

“I think we need to focus more on defense and rebounding. We’re not that big a team so we have to focus on that.” The Parrots have moved up to Division II this season, but are in contention for one of the top four playoff seeds.

Getting home games are often crucial for any kind of playoff run. And winning your league is crucial to getting more than one home playoff game. That should keep the Parrots sufficiently motivated in the final four league games, which began Wednesday, Feb. 5, against North Hollywood. Reyes is there already. “I don’t want to lose another league game,” he said. And if the Parrots do make it to the finals? Then All Hail Cesar, indeed.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 February 2014 19:07