With his team locked in a tight game in the fourth quarter at Southlake Carroll, Arlington Martin boys basketball senior Jalen Petillo made his presence felt.
The 6-foot-7 center buried a jumper to nudge his team ahead by a point. He followed up the made shot with an impressive defensive play. Guarding a Carroll player on the perimeter, he took a quick swipe at the ball, collected the steal and drove the other way to thrown down an emphatic dunk.
Martin eventually came up short in the early December nondistrict game. But Petillo and the Warriors flashed their potential against the Dragons. In 2015-2016, coach Clint Schnell’s first season at Martin, the team finished second in a formidable District 4-6A and reached the fourth round of the playoffs. And Petillo is one of the team’s biggest reasons why the Warriors could be every bit as good this time around.
“When you’ve got a guy that athletic, he’s no secret to anybody,” Schnell said of Petillo. “When he makes a play and finishes the way he does, it gets everybody excited. He’s instant energy.”
Petillo, the team’s leading scorer, averages double digits in points and rebounds. He’s also adept at blocking shots and collecting steals. But Petillo isn’t trying to do it all for Martin — just his one rather significant part.
“It’s not just one person who has to do the majority of the scoring,” Petillo said.
He has the same attitude about leadership. One of seven returners, Petillo doesn’t mind being vocal in the huddle or on the court. But it’s not his role to shoulder alone.
“There’s not just one of us who can talk,” Petillo said. “All of us can do it.”
Still, as unassuming as he is, Petillo doesn’t simply blend into the background. Carroll coach Eric McDade, who had earlier in the season watched Martin play in the Warriors’ home tournament, recognized Petillo’s special attributes after only a few minutes of seeing Martin in action.
“He’s left-handed, has great spring. But probably one of the things I noticed right off is on the perimeter: his defense,” McDade said. “Because he’s able to get in the passing lane a couple of times and then go get those breakaway dunks. He’s got great potential as a basketball player. Very gifted athlete, very gifted player.”
That gifted player has work to add to his game since his junior year. “When I got there and he was a junior, he was pretty much an interior player,” Schnell said. “He could knock down a mid-range shot.”
These days, Petillo’s a more consistent shooter and improved ball-handler, which adds several dimensions to his offensive game: He can hit shots off the dribble or drive to the rim from outside the paint.
“He’s really expanded his game,” Schnell said. “He worked hard this spring and summer. You don’t see it a lot: shots out on the perimeter. But you can see he’s comfortable out there on the dribble. He dribbles and takes the shot or drives to the rim, whatever is needed.”
Whatever is needed seems to be Petillo’s mantra. And right now what is needed, the senior said, is for the Warriors to improve in certain key stretches of games. With a cast of talented teammates that includes senior point guard Jay’Len Wilson, junior guard Nick Gardner and junior forward Isaiah Pittman, Martin figures to continue to improve in all aspects of its play as it prepares for the Whataburger Tournament in late December and the start of district in January.
“Obviously it’s our goal to win district,” Petillo said. “We just have to be ready.”
The Texas Girls Coaches Association recently announced its Academic All-State teams, and players from several Arlington ISD teams were honored.
Arlington: Seniors Megan Gray and Jordan McKenna. Bowie: Seniors Elizabeth Crosely, Alicia Gonzalez and Alexandra McLennan. Lamar: Seniors Sophia Rahnke, Kayla Whetstone and Abby Wilson. Martin: Seniors Celeste Hanson, Natalie Kircher, Anna McCollough and Taylor Weber. Seguin: Senior Jessi Herbold.
The Texas High School Coaches Association honored 10 Arlington ISD football players with inclusion on the Academic All-State team.
Named to the second team were Lamar’s Chance Fuller and Martin’s Zach McVeigh.
Honorable mentions include Cade Gober, Geovanny Mendoza, Luke Miche, Tre’Shun Miller and Ryan Reuland of Lamar, and Roderick Anderson, Jonathan Fowler and Braeden Perry of Martin.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74