In the desert, in triple-digit heat, and on asphalt, Nic Sargeant has the urge to play basketball. He misses the sport that much.
Sargeant is spending spring break in La Quinta, where he and a half dozen of his closest friends rented out a house with a pool. A volleyball net is set up in the back, but if it were up to Sargeant, there would also be a portable basketball goal.
Sargeant last suited up for the Newport Harbor High boys' basketball team on Feb. 21. Almost two months have passed since the Sailors' season ended in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs.
There is one more game left in Sargeant, one more game to represent his school on the basketball court. And that's why he's coming home early, leaving all the fun and heat behind in the desert, just to compete again.
Sargeant is playing in the 49th edition of the Orange County North-South All-Star Game at Concordia University on Saturday at 7 p.m. Every player will get at least 8 minutes of action, 4 for every half. If 8 minutes is all Sargeant is limited to, fans will see Sargeant make the most of his time.
Sargeant gave it his all every time he stepped in the gym. He willed the Sailors to their best Sunset League finish in six seasons. Placing third, with Sargeant as the lone returning starter on the team, was no easy task in the brutal league.
None of it came easy, yet Sargeant, a 5-foot-11 guard, accepted the daily challenge. His senior season proved to be his best and the one in which Sargeant earned the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year award in boys' basketball.
During his three seasons as a starter, Sargeant matured and the team grew competitive. He listened and assumed a leadership role. Every season Newport Harbor improved, from fifth place, to fourth, and then third.
The Sailors qualified for the postseason for the second straight time this past season. The consecutive playoff appearances marked the Sailors' first since the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, their first two back in the Sunset League.
Those two seasons were also the last time Newport Harbor didn't finish with a losing record. Then Sargeant, in the past two seasons, led the Sailors each time to a 14-14 overall record.
Coach Bob Torribio wasn't kidding when he said the Sailors relied on Sargeant to make plays. And he delivered, leading the team in points (17.5), rebounds (seven), assists (3.6), three-pointers (1.8) and steals (1.7) per game.
"It was easy to play at Newport because of all the support from coaches and players," said Sargeant, who's also a standout libero on the Newport Harbor boys' volleyball team. "The program has a really good future [with Torribio]."
Torribio is the one who called Sargeant's number when the team needed a big shot. One Sargeant will never forget is the three-pointer he knocked down from just inside midcourt as time expired to lift the host Sailors to a 56-55 win against Marina. The three proved to be the difference in Newport Harbor finishing third in league at 5-5 and not sharing it with Marina.
Sargeant and the Sailors made the playoffs, Marina stayed home. The postseason run lasted just one round at No. 2-seeded Foothill, where the Sailors lost, 82-55. Sargeant ended up with a career-best 29 points and seven three-point plays, six from behind the arc.
While the outcome wasn't in his team's favor, Sargeant fought to the end.
"You got to love his heart. You got to love his tenacity. You got to love his competitiveness," Torribio said afterward. "He never wants to give up. He wants the ball in his hands. He wants to make plays. He's going to dive on the floor. He's going to take charges. He's going to buy into whatever game plan we have."
One more game plan is there for Sargeant to execute on Saturday. Many of the top seniors in the county will take the court, and Sargeant, a two-time Dream Team and first-team All-Sunset League selection, will surely belong.
Sargeant plans to work up more of a sweat than he did earlier this week in the desert with friends.
Below are the rest of the players on this year's Dream Team: