Basketball: Garcia having breakout season

Diego Garcia splits a pair of defenders on his way to hoop in a game against Christopher on Jan. 13.

When Diego Garcia rolled his ankle in the first quarter in a game against Christopher on Jan. 13, he was determined to finish the contest. And that’s exactly what the San Benito High senior did, finishing with 14 points in the Haybalers’ 67-60 loss. San Benito entered Wednesday’s game against Salinas with a 0-4 league record, but Garcia’s play has been a positive in an otherwise tough season.
The 5-foot-9 180-pound combo guard has been dynamite at times, consistently getting to the basket off dribble penetration. Garcia has also shown an ability to get hot shooting from the outside, something that didn’t seem possible just four years ago.
Under the guidance of David Perez, who coached Garcia as an eighth grader and freshman, Garcia’s shooting form improved dramatically.
“Coach Perez taught me how to shoot,” Garcia said. “He taught me how to get my feet set, my elbows straight and how to step into my shot and follow through.”
Garcia has had some big games this season, as he scored a career-high 26 points against Alvarez and 18 in the first half against Monterey in the North Monterey County Tournament on Dec. 29.
It’s been a memorable season for Garcia, who has made marked improvements in every phase of the game. Chalk that up to the extra time he spent in the off-season practicing by himself. On some game days, Garcia picks a court in Hollister and does his own shootaround before going home to shower and getting ready for the game.
“I get focused and locked in for the game that way,” he said.
Despite going up against taller players in the lane, Garcia has found a knack for getting his shot off against tough defense.
“Once I’m in the lane, I try to get a good angle or use the rim as protection for my shot,” he said. “The key thing is confidence, and I get confident once I get past my defender.”
Garcia has had plenty of success doing that this season, using a positive outlook to keep him going strong. Garcia credits his parents, Ulises and Karina, and his older brother, Ulises Jr., for pushing him to reach a higher level. Garcia has always shown an ability to drive to the basket; however, in his first year of playing in the National Junior Basketball (NJB) league as an eighth grader, Garcia was lost.
“I was really behind that year,” he said. “I had a tough time adjusting to organized basketball.”
But Garcia eventually adapted his skills to the organized game, and he’s confident his game can reach another level. Garcia plans on playing two years at a community college with the goal of earning a scholarship to a four-year program.
“Basketball has always been the first love of my life,” he said. “I play every game as if it’s a championship game.”

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