Ignacio Tucson star selects NAIA, Bacone College – The Durango Herald

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Tucson will play basketball for the Warriors

Bacone College men’s basketball head coach Ruben Little Head jokes with Ignacio’s Gabe Tucson that part of the game at Bacone is bringing the boss’ coffee (with two sugars) at 8:30 a.m. each morning. Tucson committed Thursday to the NAIA-level Warriors inside the IHS Gymnasium. (Joel Priest/Special for the Herald)

Among the many things former Hotchkiss head baseball coach Blake Carlquist would have been grateful for this spring, perhaps one was the fact that he wouldn’t have to watch Gabe Tucson. of Ignacio.

“We just kept nibbling … found a way to get some points,” he said after HHS took over IHS Field in two games. “But hats off to this southpaw (Tucson); he’s a good arm, and it won’t be an easy day if he’s in the strike zone.

Now skipper of the Hotchkiss-Paonia North Fork collective, Carlquist could easily have coached Nucla Randy Gabriel or Dove Creek’s Trent Daves with that remark, equally lucky not to see Ignacio’s ace in 2A/1A San Juan Basin League play in 2022.

Not that Tucson didn’t want to be on the diamond; the multi-sport star just had a different purpose.

Ignacio’s Gabe Tucson spins the baseline around a Lotus School for Excellence defender during 2A-Region IV action at neutral Vail Mountain High School in the 2021-22 season. (Joel Priest/Special for the Herald)

Tucson made its next destination known Thursday by signing a letter of intent to study and play National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics-level basketball for Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

“It was a bit unusual,” a smiling Tucson said of the fact that about 20 witnesses observed him inside the IHS gymnasium without the stone in his hand, “but I was glad my family be… watched me take the next step in my life.”

“I just wanted to go somewhere that was different, keep playing with Natives and…yeah, there are mixed emotions,” he continued. “I feel very anxious, but excited.”

“Well, when he came out for practices last month, I could immediately see his charisma, his body language, his energy that he gave off that he was a basketball player,” said Bacone men’s basketball head coach Ruben Little Head. Little Head first addressed the crowd – filled with Tucson family, classmates, IHS staff as well as Bobcat assistant basketball coach Damon White Thunder – in his Northern Cheyenne before speaking in English.

“What I liked about him was his open courtesy, his ability to fill the halls and his… being very positive. That’s the word I want to use: positive,” Little Head continued. “As for being a team player, someone has coached him well!”

“Gabe has proven to be the best player on the pitch, and the good part about him is that it’s not about him,” longtime IHS boss Chris Valdez had said during of the 2021-22 campaign. “He was sharing the ball, trying to get things done for his team – trying to help the team improve. That’s when you know you have a future, when your best player is working with everyone to bring them to his level and not just play above them.

“He encouraged all of us to do better,” second-year goaltender Phillip Quintana said after Ignacio’s loss to Aurora-based Lotus School for Excellence in the 2A-Region IV semifinals. “He keeps the team at a level and we have reached his level; we played with him.

In his two years as the college’s primary weapon, Tucson helped the Bobcats go 14-3 overall in the COVID-compressed 2020-21 season and then 16-7 in 2021- 22 as Ignacio’s only returning starter. And after averaging 11.9 points per game as a junior, he’s scored 18.2 (plus 9.8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.9 steals) per outing this winter en route to earning the accolades of first team all-SJBL and honorable mention All-2A.

“We certainly couldn’t be here without him; he was the best of us in rebounds, in points – the best in the team for sure,” second post Gabe Cox said after the Lotus loss. “He has been the best player of the last two years, he has really carried our team.”

“Hopefully he will have another growth spurt; if he goes 6-3 or 6-4, that would be great,” Little Head said. “But he’s a great guard, he plays 1-2 positions – maybe even 3 – and I imagine him as a slasher on the open court. And he’s got a pretty good outside shot, from that that I saw.

“I like offense myself, but I like defense, and if he works hard for me in that department, he’ll gain minutes!”

Defense would indeed seem to be the aspect that Little Head, appointed head coach of Bacone in February 2021, wants to see improved; 10 times in 2021-22, the Warriors, part of the NAIA’s Independent Continental Athletics Conference, have given up 100 or more points.

Reaching triple figures offensively just once, Bacone went 3-25.

Citing interests in studying sports management or radiology, Tucson noted that Bacone became his pick because of its IHS-like population of about 300 students.

“Yeah, big time,” he said. “I don’t want to be a ‘number’ for a teacher; I want to get to know my teachers and they get to know me. I want to make a difference, and… it felt like home.

“Cooking, rafting, hiking, watching movies. … We just do a lot of team bonding where they can get to know each other better, get to know each other,” Little Head said. “Because if you know each other well off the pitch, when you’re on the pitch you’ll play your roles better.”

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