Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

December 11, 2012

Wills: Protecting the Navarro brand

Estelle reminds players what it takes to be champions

By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun

— Respect the Navarro basketball brand.

That’s the parting message Runnin’ Bulldogs coach Johnny Estelle sent home with his players, who closed out the first semester of basketball with a ho-hum 71-57 victory over Southwest Christian College.

Navarro won’t play again now for 23 days — the Bulldogs will next hit the court in the new year, Jan. 2 at Ranger.

In between then, the players have finals, Christmas, family time, New Year’s Day and 15 more regular season games to ponder.

Estelle had a basic message for his team in his final post-game talk late Monday night.

“I want them to try and understand what the Navarro brand means,” Estelle said. “We want our younger guys to know how much time and hard work the guys put in before them to have the success they had. And how you have to work hard to play like that.”

Estelle wanted to remind them of the D’Andre Browns and Matt Presseys that came before them, that brought their teams together, peaking in the second semester and making it to the national tournament.

Don’t mistake him, Estelle is pleased with how the first semester went.

Navarro had a seven-game winning streak and won eight out of nine, losing only to No. 15 San Jacinto on Saturday.

The Bulldogs were a bit lackluster Monday night, but that’s understandable after getting home late Saturday night from Houston and having only a walk-through on Sunday to prepare for Southwest Christian.

Put in perspective, it was a good win, especially considering Navarro made only 3 of their 16 3-pointers for 18 percent, well below its season-average of 27.3 from behind the arc.

Navarro could be 13-2 instead of 11-4 overall at the break if Estelle had broken from his and Lewis Orr’s tradition of waiting to shrink the bench and the rotation after Christmas.

Monday night provided another example of why he doesn’t. Jamar Goodwin led Navarro with 10 points. The Bulldogs have five players score between seven and nine points.

Estelle’s approach provides more time for evaluation. Goodwin has come on strong in the last two games, perhaps feeling the competition around him.

Terrance Syon, who scored eight points and had seven rebounds, is Navarro’s most improved player. Probably because he’s a sophomore, but also because the 14 players he’s competing with for playing time have pushed him to another level.

It’s part of the Navarro brand. Work for everything. Compete at all times. Be a good teammate.

It’s something everyone on the roster will think about for the next three weeks.