Right now the biggest holiday gifts being delivered are the ones being exchanged at RED BANK REG. Iris Azcona is giving Red Bank the gift of baller. RBR is giving Iris Azcona a platform to show all how gifted she truly is. I guess you can say they both got the present they wanted most… the gift of having each other.
Iris Azcona, is a story that must be told. That’s because we need feel good stories these days. I’ve known Iris since she was in 7th grade. I remember the first time I saw her. She was skilled and had a athletic, college like body even at that age. I knew she had a chance to be a excellent player but not because of these reasons. I knew she could be special because of her work ethic and dedication. Her parents drove two hours to get her to her training. It seemed all was going end correctly when she committed to BUTLER UNIVERSITY OF THE BIG EAST LAST FALL. But sometimes kids lose their way and have to be rediscovered .
After Iris committed to Butler, I saw very little of her. She decided to spend her time training with her future AAU team. Then in the summer and spring she played for her AAU team. Since she had already committed to Butler, the team focus was on other kids. So she didn’t get to play the minutes she had hoped for. But worst her AAU team did not play elite competition. The type of competition she’d see and face at Butler. I watched a few of her AAU games. She could shoot the ball because that’s what she was born to do better than most. But if the truth be told I was not impressed and soon Iris was not impressed with Butler. So she decommitted, changed AAU teams and re opened her recruitment. She also came back to NBS. Iris Azcona was ready to start all over. So that’s exactly what she did.
When she returned to NBS, she was not the kid who dominated everyone at the HOOP GROUP EXPOSURE EVENT year ago. She was not the player who could play and train at a breakneck pace under control. The because something was missing. Maybe she was no longer use to playing against elite competition. Maybe her spirit was broken because of the Butler Situation. Who knows I just know she was not kid I knew earlier. When she reopened her recruitment D1 college coaches called. I told them the truth. I said I wasn’t sure if she was a D1 player. Her old AAU coached called me and asked my opinion. He still wanted to help her. He asked me what level did I believe she was? I am told him right now I didn’t see a D1 player. I didn’t see that explosive mega talented kid who committed to Butler. This was not the same kid, something had changed.
I watched Iris Azcona get up at 4.30 every weekend and come to NBS for 3 months. I watched as she drove to after school shooting everyday to shoot for 2 hours. I watched as she went to Core Skills Training 2x a week. I watched as Iris Azcona did more than any kid should be asked to do. But Iris Azcona was on a mission back to greatness. She refuse to give up on her dreams. She had people telling her to consider signing at D2 schools. She’s certainly be a rock star at the level of play. More humbling was D1 schools, who were begging for her attention, schools she took for granted would want her a year earlier were not offering. It all seemed surreal and bizarre. But Iris didn’t care, she had unfinished business to take care of and she was only having it one way… HER WAY BACK TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP.
Sometimes as trainers we protect kids or think we need to protect kids. That’s exactly what I did to Iris. I had watched tape of her in the summer playing with her AAU teams. I knew she would not be ready for such a massive jump in competition at NBS. I felt she was fragile, I felt her confidence was on the edge. So I gave her matchups that would not break her Spirit. I believe she was insulted by it and felt I didn’t believe in her. Then one day, when she was leaving NBS, she said to me “Tiny am back, please give me the best matchup in the gym tomorrow” …I looked her and she smiled. Then the next day on a Sunday morning, Iris Azcona went to work on one of the best guards in all of New Jersey. Jumpers, passes, dimes and lord did she defend. Iris Azcona looked the the kid BUTLER wanted so badly. She was electric that day. But in my mind it was just one day. What I didn’t know was it was now going to be that way….. everyday. IRIS crushing it like she owed it.
I sat in the stands with my asst coaches at NBS. Just watching. Then someone went downhill and it looked like they exploded out of a cannon. The pace and the force that she displayed made every coach sit up. It was then Coach Doug Shaw said “who the hell was that?”. It was Iris Azcona and that’s when former D1 coach Bob Dubina said “Butler is going regret losing her”….It’s was also then, I decided I need to call college coaches back ASAP and tell them I made a mistake, this not just a D1 player. This is a impact kid.
I spoke with Iris Azcona in the parking lot, I told her things are going to work out fine for you. You got lost but now you found yourself. No way you won’t have multiple choices for college. There just going to have to rediscover you after forming an opinion. Just like with me you’ll have to go through the process of changing their mind. It was then Iris told me her parents were moving to New Jersey and she would attend RBR. She was excited, she excited because she has always wanted to play in the shore conference. She knew the shore was a proving ground and that’s exactly what she planned on doing proving herself….. GAME OVER HYPE…NOT HYPE OVER GAME!
Last Friday I sat with a group of college coaches. It was Iris’s first high school game. Her team lost she played solid but far from spectacular. After the game I told every coach. “This is a different kid than the one you saw this summer”. I then called her high school coach John Truhan. I said you play #7 WALL tomorrow? He said yes. I said “ Coach tomorrow Iris Azcona is getting 20 and 5 dimes.” I was wrong because she got 31 points and 6 dimes in a big upset win by RBR. Like I said IRIS AZCONA has found her way back… all the way back. That’s because right now she is working on a dream season and a dream like story!
Last night RBR hung a banner honoring their new 1000 point scorers. Everyone cheered because it was this group that brought the program back from the abyss… well nobody knows more about what it feels like to fall off the Mountain top and climb back to the top than…. IRIS AZCONA