Coach J.R. Rodriguez

Mustang basketball head coach J.R. Rodriguez puts his boys through their paces during a drills session Nov. 18 in The Corral.

NEEDLES — A pair of new head coaches lead the Needles High School Mustangs and Lady ’Stangs varsity basketball programs this year: Adrian Chavez for the girls, J.R. Rodriguez for the boys.

While it’s the first year in the varsity head coach slot for both, neither is new to coaching and neither is new to many of the players on their respective teams. The two were leading their players through an exhaustive set of pre-season drills in The Corral on Nov. 18.

Rodriguez said he stared coaching about a dozen years ago, beginning work with Needles Middle School in 2011. “I’ve been coaching high school for the last four years with the junior varsity program,” he continued; “and I’ve also coached an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) travel team the last eight years.”

The travel team, he explained, is for boys of high school varsity age and includes some of the boys he’s worked with at Needles High School including Dawsen Yeager, Daniel Felix and Nathan Rodriguez. “Our two top scorers, Nathan and Dawsen, are coming back from last year,” he said.

Asked about overall strengths of the 2019-20 Mustangs, he advised those would be speed and quickness among a group of “really smart basketball players.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. “We’re a little young at certain positions,” Rodriguez allowed. “We’re going to be getting experience. We have some good guys coming up from JV last year that are going to be able to contribute at the varsity level.”

His strategy? “We’re going to play super physical on defense,” he answered, “rebound as a team, push the ball and run and gun.”

Looking ahead to the NIAA 2A South League in which the Mustangs play, he said: “The whole league is tough. It’s going to be solid. We’re going to have to bring our A game every night; play hard every night.

“I push them,” he continued. “I want them to work as hard as possible, give it all they’ve got. Try to get them to think the game; not just play the game but think the game.”

His coaching philosophy? “Leave it all on the floor. Give it all you’ve got.”

Asked why he chose to coach, Rodriguez replied: “I like to teach the kids the game of basketball. Just to see these guys every year is fun for me. It’s a good time. I like everything about it; the practices and the games.”

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