EDINBURG — It all came together for Edinburg North junior guard Brian Beltran this season.
Already one of the more dynamic playmakers in the Valley, he got even better. He became a better leader. He became a better teammate. He became a more efficient player. Essentially, he played like a senior, which is scary in itself in that he has one more year to further improve an already impressive resume.
He also led North to a program-best postseason run to the Class 5A regional quarterfinals, earning this year’s RGVSports.com Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“Knowing a lot of seniors left last year, I felt like I had to play this year like it was my senior year,” Beltran said. “That’s how I went out for every game. Even though I’m not the most outspoken guy, I know that if I didn’t lead, if I didn’t talk, things might not go the way I want.
“I had to step up.”
Beltran averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 steals in leading the way for the Cougars’ district championship season, a nightmare for opposing coaches because of his high basketball I.Q. and deceptive speed with the ball. As the cliché goes, not only does he play the game at a high level, he thinks it that way too.
“He’s able to understand the game, even a play or two ahead,” Edinburg North coach Rudy Garcia said. “He can anticipate what his defender is going to do, and he always has a counter. He picks up on plays very easily and it’s in his blood.”
But basketball wasn’t always so easy for Beltran. Prior to this year, he was little more than a one-dimensional player, a sharp shooter willing to just rack up the points and call it a day. But there’s a lot more to it, as he learned, and it was Garcia who pushed, prodded and urged for him to see the light.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Beltran to do so.
“Before we got into district, he started showing signs of coming around and being the ballplayer we expected him to be,” Garcia said. “As we went into district, we saw it even more, where he’d be our leading scorer. And even when he wasn’t, he was helping lead our team, assisting and defending.
“It goes back to him understanding that the more he passes the ball, the more he’ll get it back.”
Beltran has often been the best player on his team. The long summers spent at the park and the countless shots hoisted can make someone progress faster than his peers.
Most like that have a tendency to trust themselves a little too much more than they trust their teammates. If they want to take their game to the next level, it’s a habit they need to shed. Beltran did just that this season, and reaped the rewards. Big time.
“Before this season, I had the mindset of just scoring however many points I wanted,” he said. “But as this season progressed, I realized passing opens up a lot, from driving lanes and shots. It just clicked.”
Garcia noticed it as well.
“Getting it to guys that were open only opened things for him even more,” Garcia said. “It was a task to get him to understand the more you involve your teammates, the more that allows you shots.”
His teammates’ success, Beltran said, became his success, as he became more vocal and took the role of team leader personally. And with that in mind, it’s not a surprise the Cougars made history, winning an area playoff game for the first time and going all the way to the regional quarters before falling to Laredo United.
What motivates Beltran and the Cougars now is the regional tournament, which they fell one game short of and will be held in Edinburg again next season. Beltran has already started work to get there, improving his pick-and-roll game and developing ways to counter the box-and-one defenses he’s likely to see more of next year.
Already owning a smooth-as-butter pull-up jump shot — “A lot of guys either close out for the shot or just expect me to keep going all the way, so the pull-up is always there,” he said — he intends to grow more as a leader and has already started building the chemistry for next year’s team, knowing full well where that can lead.
“Last year I went to the (RGVSports.com/Rio Grande Valley Vipers) All-Valley All-Star Showcase game and I told myself, ‘Next year, I’m gonna be here, playing in it," said Beltran, who played in the third edition of the Showcase game on Saturday. "I worked real hard, used that as a goal, and to know that I played in it, getting All-Valley, all that I was able to accomplish ... it’s real cool.
“Hard work does pay off.”
Dennis Silva II covers high school basketball for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4451 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @densilva2
2012-13 ALL-VALLEY BOYS BASKETBALL TEAMS
School: Harlingen South
Stats: 18.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 steals
Notable: District 32-5A MVP
Stats: 13.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.1 steals
Notable: District 32-5A first teamer
Stats: 202. points,13.8 rebounds
Notable: District 32-5A first teamer
School: McAllen Rowe
Stats: 14.0 points, 8.8 rebounds
Notable: District 31-5A first teamer
School: Edinburg High
Stats: 17.0 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.1 blocks
Notable: District 30-5A offensive player of the year
ALL-VALLEY BOYS SECOND TEAM
Juan Gonzalez, McAllen Memorial, Senior: Notable – District 31-5A MVP
Gilbert Reza, Harlingen High, Senior: Notable – District 32-5A offensive player of the year
Marcos Garcia, San Isidro, Senior: Notable – Disrict 32-2A MVP
Matt Cervantes, Harlingen High, Junior: Notable – District 32-5A first teamer
Osiris Pinera, Valley View, Senior: Notable – District 32-4A first teamer
ALL-VALLEY BOYS THIRD TEAM
Anjel Gonzales, Harlingen South, Junior: Notable – District 32-5A first teamer
Luis Mancillas Jr. PSJA High, Junior: Notable – District 31-5A first teamer
Kevin Andrade, Roma, Junior: Notable – District 32-4A MVP
Matt Dillard, Hidalgo, Junior: Notable – District 32-3A MVP
Rudy Campos, McAllen Rowe, Junior: Notable – District 31-5A defensive player of the year