Fernando Ruiz offers the Justin Northwest boys basketball program some length in the low post. But he still has remained much of an unknown.
When the Texans (9-4) struggled in the first half against Grand Prairie in the DFW Showcase this past Saturday, head coach Mike Hatch turned to the 6-8 Ruiz for help. Hatch, Ruiz and the rest of the players are hoping it’s a watershed moment.
Ruiz scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the second half to help the Texans pull away in the fourth quarter, 60-45.
“We were dealing with some foul trouble, struggling with our offense and getting killed on the boards,” Hatch said. “Fernando was great because he held them to no second shots in the second half. It was probably the best second half of the season we’ve played.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
Ruiz came up to the varsity with the hope that he could contribute. But the staff wasn’t really sure. Hatch said Ruiz played with the junior varsity in 2014-2015 and was primarily used off the bench.
There were flashes from Ruiz (190 pounds). He’s had to do most of the post work without Darrell Simpson. Simpson has been unavailable for the last a couple of weeks but should be ready for the District 5-6A opener on Friday against Keller Central.
“All we were looking for was blocked shots and rebounds, and if he scored that would be extra,” Hatch said. “He’s just one of those guys who just enjoys playing and is trying to get better. I hope this is something we can look forward to.”
Simpson’s return should make a difference. Without him, the opposing team’s top post drew the assignment on Ruiz. But with Simpson (6-8, 300), he should have that matchup. That should free up Ruiz.
“We were having some problems rebounding and were starting nobody over 6-0 the last couple of games,” Hatch said. “Darrell will make us a more balanced looking team. So I think that will change exactly what how we want to approach it.”
Before Central, Northwest played host to Flower Mound on Tuesday. The Jaguars were ranked No. 9 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 6A poll.
Following a flat outing against Haltom (12-points) on Dec. 1, senior guard Tevian Ezell has bounced back over the last two weeks. He’s scored 19-25 points in the last five games. In his 25-point outing against Grand Prairie, Ezell was 4-5 on 3-pointers.
“He’s just much more mature,” Hatch said. “Tevian is not one of those kids who feels like he has to shoot. He’s doing his job out there. I don’t worry about him.”
Thus far, Ezell is shooting 36 percent from 3-point range, 45 percent for the season and 79 at the free throw line.
Byron Nelson update
The Bobcats (10-3) are coming off a solid performance in the Cedar Hill tournament this past weekend where they went 3-1. They played Saginaw Chisholm Trail on Tuesday before they open District 5-6A play on Friday at district-favorite Keller.
The Indians feature guard/forward and Pepperdine signee Nolan Taylor, who is expected to return from injury. But the headline is Indians’ junior guard R.J. Nembhard, one of the top college players across the country.
“All you do is try to limit his touches because he’s such a skilled player,” Nelson coach Scott Curran said. “But we had some good work with our bench at the Cedar Hill tournament. We’re just trying to be as ready as we can for district.”