By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
One of the biggest events in his life and one of the biggest games of the season qualify as making this an eventful week for Navarro basketball coach Johnny Estelle.
Jayden Estelle arrived three weeks early on Sunday, the first boy and the third child for Ana and Johnny Estelle. Jayden won’t be on the bench for Wednesday night’s huge game against No. 18 Kilgore.
Coach Estelle will be there though, continuing a hectic week that has included supporting his lovely wife through labor, feeding Jayden and running a few basketball practices.
“It’s been about 11 years,” Estelle said of welcoming a child into the world again, his fourth with a son Jevon who lives in Arizona. “It’s still the same. It’s like riding a bicycle.”
Jayden’s timing was perfect. The Runnin’ Bulldogs had an open date Saturday, so the showdown against the Rangers will be Navarro’s first game since a win last Wednesday at Bossier Parish.
Jayden was supposed to come on Feb. 12, the day before a home game against Panola. That would have really put the pressure on his father.
Coming Sunday allowed for Estelle to be at three practices and be there for his family. Young Jayden had the right idea.
“He’s like our team, sometimes on offense we can’t wait,” Estelle said. “We have to shoot it up there. He’s home now. He’s healthy and we’re blessed.”
Estelle knows exactly what to expect from Kilgore, which won a controversial game last year at the Wolens Speciel Events Center. The Estelles weren’t exactly planning on the new member of the family.
“I didn’t think I would go through it again,” Estelle said. “But God always has a way of giving you what he wants.”
A gift from God, Estelle said.
“It’s amazing,” Estelle said. “I love kids. I’ve always loved kids. When Ana and I first got married I told her, ‘hey we’re going to have beautiful kids.’ The first one came and she’s drop-dead gorgeous. The second one came and she’s drop-dead gorgeous. And now I have a handsome son. No I’m just kidding. I’m very grateful.”
Estelle has leaned heavily on assistant coaches Eric Colbert and Brian Crawford, who ran the start of Wednesday’s practice so the family could get baby Jayden home.
Practice was spirited Wednesday. Intense. Just how Estelle wanted it to be when he arrived at the gym.
“For us we have a family atmosphere (with basketball),” Estelle said. “We have great assistant coaches that stepped in. I didn’t even have to ask them to do anything. We haven’t missed a beat. We’ll be ready for Kilgore.”
It’s the biggest game of the Region XIV season so far, East or South. Navarro somehow is unranked despite being 17-4 and winning 14 of 15 games. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are 9-1 in conference play.
Kilgore is 18-3 overall and second in conference with an 8-3 mark, putting them 1 1/2 games behind Navarro. A Runnin’ Bulldogs win would give Navarro a three-game lead in the region with eight games to play (Angelina is 7-4 and four others are 6-4).
Don’t forget that this season an automatic berth to the national tournament is there for the regular-season champion.
“It is a big game,” Estelle said. “It has a lot of implications. But there’s still eight other conference games after it. It’s a big game being No. 1 and 2 in the conference.
“We’re playing at home. We have to have some great fan support. If we have great fan support they’ll be that little edge to push us over the top.”
Navarro has plenty of motivation, from the newest Estelle arriving to being snubbed in the poll again this week.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Estelle said of not being ranked. “That’s just the way it is. I guess we’re not very good. We’ll just go with what everybody else says and prove everybody wrong hopefully.”
Harrison Hawkins, one of the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ point guards, said Estelle will be motivated to get a win for his new son.
“I know it’s more motivation for him,” Hawkins said. “Him being the head of this thing. It’s going to be more motivation for us. We want to get the little guy a win on the first day he’s here. We have to deliver.”