HE’S GOT NEXT: OLVERA FOLLOWS LONG LINE OF FAMILY STARS AT EHS
BY GREG SELBER
A decade ago, he was a chubby 5-year-old in the stands, calling for his uncle, the star of the high school team, to dunk the ball during warm-ups at the old EHS. The uncle, George Olvera, would oblige, though he recalls taking a ribbing from his Bobcat teammates for performing on cue. Anything for Little Aaron.
Now, down the road we are, and “Little Aaron” ain’t so little anymore; he averages 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Bobcats, with one of the most scintillating all-around games in South Texas. A 5-foot-11 junior, the explosive point guard had college ball written all over him.
His uncle is right there for every highlight-reel move, as a top assistant for the program under Zeke Cuellar. It’s been over 10 years since the uncle graduated from EHS, and both he and Aaaron remember the old days. So it’s not surprising that the uncle is his nephew’s biggest supporter.
Sort of, anyway.
“He’s always picking on me, always!” laughed Aaron Wednesday night. “He’s always telling me I’ll never beat him, and that I’ll never dunk…but he also always helps me, and really, he’s practically like a second dad for me.”
It is a classic family rivalry, as the younger Olvera threatens to erase the memories of the uncle, a 6-5 post and outstanding Bobcat star who later played professionally in Mexico. But it’s just the beginning of the lineup. You want to take on the Olveras? Good luck.
Besides Aaron and George, the inside-out combo, there is the duo of Liz Olvera and Jaime Acuna. The former, Aaron’s sister, was the Valley’s rebounding queen for two years running mid-decade, while the latter was a high-flying wing for the Bobcats who used up his eligibility last year. So we have a double-post offense with a super-quick point and a scoring machine on the wing.
Now all we need is a role player who can play defense and run the court. Though she may be married with a daughter now, Jaime’s sister, Polly, was a strong hoopster for the Lady Bobcats in the Olvera-Marah Guzman-Gina Ferrer Era, good enough to help the team to the state Sweet 16 as a senior.
So, go ahead, make their day. Bring it!
“I tell people we are keeping the school in business,” suggested George, “But after Aaron, we got nuthin’ for awhile. Some daughters coming up, in the future.
CREAM OF THE CROP?
As good as George and the rest were, and that was plenty good, it has become painfully/happily obvious in the past year that Aaron will be, maybe already is, the best of the bunch. He is simply a superb natural athlete who complements incredible God-given ability (35-inch vertical leap and a first step that cannot be seen, much less stopped) with an ironclad work ethic.
“He does have a ton of ability, more than I had,” the uncle admitted. “He’s way bigger and stronger, he works out all the time. He used to ask me, ‘What do I need to do?’ and he’s always doing it. We work out every day just about, he lifts a lot and the strength has really helped his game.”
For his part, Aaron agrees that time in the weight room has been a boon to his success.
“I can feel the strength when I can blow by defenders and get up,” said the Bobcat star, who has scored 36 and 31 points in games this season with eight other 20-point nights. “I say that George is always picking on me, but the truth is, he has been totally there for me every day.”
Besides helping the young prodigy perfect his body, Olvera has also been there for his nephew in other ways.
“I have been able to teach him mentally, especially when it comes to dealing with the box-and-one,” the uncle explained. “He listens…we spend so much time together, people always ask me if that’s my son. I have to give my brother Juan credit for that one, though.”
Case in point about the head game: in the team’s most recent game, against Econ Tuesday, Olvera struggled to a 1-for-6 start as the Jags went zone, but with one man following the shifty guard all over the court, bumping and grinding and trying to frustrate him. Playing through bumps and bruises he would later look at in wonder, EHS’s leader persevered.
“That’s what they try to do, get physical with him, because they know they can’t just guard him regular,” George said. “I tried to help Aaron see the floor, find ways to attack the box-and-one. With his skills and strength, it’s only a matter of time before he breaks loose. And he did.”
A GLIMPSE OF THE MAGIC
With 5:47 left in the action Tuesday, Aaron Olvera stood at the free-throw line with the rest of the players down at the other end. He sneakered out a wet spot on the floor with a squeak-squeak, almost as if he were preparing the spot for some future highlight…and he was. He’d already exploded for 14 in the third period, on the way to 22 points in the 54-40 victory that made EHS 14-6 for the season, nailing three treys against a Jag defense that had just gotten tired chasing him. Not done yet.
Minutes later, he made a sequence come alive at the spot he’d doctored, illustrating in a flash why this All-Valley MVP candidate is starting to hear rumbles from college coaches.
A loose ball went up in the forecourt and Olvera was on it like a cat. In one motion he snared the ball out of the air with his left hand, directing it behind his back and into a hard dribble in the same instant. Controlling with the right, he was off to the goal, freezing the defender with a sick hesitation dribble, then rising out of that fakery to elevate to the basket.
A beautiful move, but he missed the easy layup. With a playful complaint, he commented on the moment.
“Yeah, I missed, so why are you telling me about it? I really wanted to make it.”
Well, it had to be said, because it showed everything in the Olvera repertoire; speed, dribbling skill, quickness, and leaping ability. Earlier in the night he’d skied to the rafters for a breathtaking blocked shot from behind on an unsuspecting Econ kid, and four of his five rebounds were defensive ones off missed free throws, all with the same script: Olvera springing into the air, seeming to float light as a feather before popping the ball with a pair of oversize hands and wafting back to earth. Fun to watch. Dude got ups.
As impressive as the vertical are the fast hands.
“I have always been quick, even when I was a kid,” he said, adding that he started playing at age 5, but was not always in the tremendous shape he’s in today.
Now, at 185 sculpted pounds, he is looking to keep after the workout routine, with a not-so-secret ulterior motive besides helping lead the ‘Cats to a fourth straight league title. He has a killer game, has started to be mentioned as perhaps the best player in a long line of EHS greats (including his family members), but Olvera wants more. He wants to dunk.
“I am doing this workout, called ‘Air Alert,’ have you heard of that? It is supposed to help your vertical leap get higher,” he promised. “That, and all the weight-lifting, and pretty soon I am going to do it. I’m gonna get one.”
He can throw them down already; actually he and 6-2 Edinburg teammate Joe Fuentes (another cousin by the way) take turns in warm-ups practicing their jams. He wants the Bobcats to live up to their nickname of Runnin’ Bobcats so he can get out on the break and cram one home.
“It’s coming, I can feel it,” Olvera said. “I think I am growing, too.”
He is just short of 6 feet, and comes from a clan with size (“We’re some big Mexicans,” George cracks). Uncle G is 6-5, father Juan is 6-6, and Liz is 6-1. George cautions that he is not sure his nephew is going to get the growth spurt he himself enjoyed (from 6-1 as a freshman at EHS 6-4 in a year). But that assessment may be part of the rivalry. Aaron has a size 13 shoe, so maybe he isn’t through yet.
AND THE OTHER GUYS?
Either way, by leaps and bounds, he’s making his mark as the latest and maybe greatest of a hierarchy of Edinburg hoops legends. Though he admits that cousin Liz used to beat him to death when they were younger and played against each other, those days are history.
Then there’s the George Factor.
They’re steady workout partners, striving to get Aaron to the next level, in terms of vertical leap, the dunk, and especially, college. They also play a lot of 1-on-1, of course. So, how does the junior sensation fare against the star of the past?
“Well, we have certain rules when we play,” George qualified. “Like, I can’t post up, which would be unfair. Let’s just say that the other day, I started messing around and he came up and beat me. I told him, ‘You got one, man.’”
According to his uncle, Aaron is the type of kid who never misses a workout and never fails to take good advice. He is also the sort one can find outside his house at midnight, day after day.
“You can always hear the ball bouncing out there, and you know it’s Aaron, shooting and working on his game,” he laughed. “You ask if he is the best player in the Valley? Well, it’s a funny question because I’m his uncle and a coach. But I will say that in my opinion he’s already the best we’ve had at Edinburg High and that is saying something.”
Whoa. Better than Lalo Rios, the superduperstar who went from a record-setting career under Joe Filoteo to four years as a starting point guard for The University of Texas-Pan American?
“Come on…he’s way bigger and stronger than Lalo,” remarked Olvera, a 1999 grad who followed Rios as a standout at a school known for great basketball since the early 1980s. “Now Lalo was a very, very smart player, one of the best at that, and he could shoot it. But Aaron has everything, he’s got the smarts, too. I think he’s the best.”
That is grist for the endless argument mill that makes high school sports so compelling. Aaron grew up watching his uncle, and then later studs like Lucio Rodriguez, Estevan Arriola, and Rallie Da la Rosa. He is glad to be in the conversation, and unlike his uncle, is unwilling to speculate as to where he lies on the hardwood continuum.
“All I know is that I want to play college ball some day,” he stressed. “I am getting a highlight tape together and we’ll see how it goes.”
For the record, UTPA coach Ryan Marks has been informed of the exploits of the dynamic 11th-grader, and has promised to come take a look at Olvera before the season is through. When Marks makes a visit, he will feast his eyes on an athletic guard who can stick it from deep, drive past the defender with a blinding flourish, dribble deftly with either hand, and find the open man with a bullet pass. And if he’s lucky, he might just get a chance to watch the latest Olvera swoop down the court for his first dunk.
It is going to happen. Excellence is a family tradition.Share this post:
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