One of the top New Year's resolutions is always to lose weight. Is there a better way to do it than by playing basketball?
For about 20 former Estancia High boys' basketball players, they showed up at their alma mater this week to play themselves back into shape. On the second day of 2013, they wanted to stick to their New Year's resolution of shedding weight.
Some don't have to lose as much. Xavier Castellano isn't one of the lucky ones.
He organized the pickup games. He even let me borrow a pair of sneakers and shorts to play. The games were to take place inside the school's small gym, not the big gym, where Castellano said he sat on the bench for most of his senior season in 1997-98.
While everyone warmed up before the first game, Castellano swept the floor. Brandon Casillas, a standout 16 years ago, said he hated it when his team practiced in the small gym. It showed when the game began.
Casillas, who's 6-foot-6, knocked down practically every jump shot during warm-ups. When it was time to play, his game disappeared just as his hair has since high school.
Carlos Pinto had something to do with shutting down Casillas. Many consider the 6-4 Pinto to be one of the best players to suit up at Estancia.
In his senior season in 2004-05, Pinto led the Eagles to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division III-A playoffs. That season, he averaged 20.5 points per game, 26 during the team's best postseason run in seven seasons.
Pinto carried his team back then and the one he played with on Wednesday. Pinto played alongside three members of the Fryslie family — Judd, Tom and Barry — and still won every pickup game. That should tell you how talented Pinto still is.
The reason Pinto stopped playing wasn't because some other team knocked off his. He got tired after leading the way in five straight games. I asked him when was the last time he felt that exhausted, and he mentioned his senior season, thanks to his former coach, Jason Simco.
Simco might have been a young coach at 22, but Pinto said he made his players work.
"It didn't matter if the team had won 10 straight games, we were still running a lot in practice," said Pinto, whose team finished 23-6 and with a Golden West League title. "All of the conditioning worked. When other teams were worn out going into the fourth quarter, we were still fresh."
How times have changed. Not many players were going strong by the second go-around in the small gym.
Castellano still wanted to play another game, pointing at his wide hips as the reasons why. I told him he should put his hips to good use and box out for rebounds, but he didn't listen. He thought he was a point guard.
I couldn't figure that one out. Another thing I couldn't figure out was how Castellano and Judd Fryslie weren't teammates. I thought they did everything together, coach the Estancia girls' basketball team and play on the same team.
Judd, 59, kept playing, thanks to Pinto dominating, and his two sons, Tom and Barry, hustling.
Castellano, 32, went home after two games and I thanked him. With him gone, our team, or what was left of it, finally had a chance to win.
League play opens next week for four of the five local boys' basketball teams. Out of the group, Corona del Mar has the best shot at finishing first in its respective league.
The Sea Kings have claimed first or a share of the Pacific Coast League title four times since Coach Ryan Schachter took over the program six years ago. No other boys' team in the area has won a league crown in the last six seasons.