Port Neches-Groves basketball gets season started before sun even rises

Published 12:10 am Thursday, October 28, 2021

PORT NECHES — High school basketball teams across the state started practice Wednesday, and Port Neches-Groves coach Chris Smith was ready to get the ball rolling.

The Indians narrowly missed the playoffs last season, but Smith is excited to see what his young team can do this year.

“It is the greatest day in the world, right here,” Smith said of the first day of practice. “We started at 6 a.m. and I was up at 4:30 just ready to go.”

The Indians lost last season’s point guard, Brady Nail, to graduation but return two starters in junior shooting guard Ian Eberhardt and sophomore Torryan Hinton, who the Indians won’t get until the gridiron season ends. The sophomore is the starting safety for the football team.

“Those guys will anchor us, but we got some kids from our JV that are just ready to play,” he said. “Bobby Nguyen is going to be our starting point guard. Christian Arteaga-Tibbitts is a two guard. He is a slasher from Port Arthur. He is stepping up on the JV.”

Smith said he has been most pleased with the team’s attitude.

“We go at 6 a.m., but we shoot the gun up at 5:30,” Smith said. “Out of the 18 that worked out, 12 of them were already here at 5:30 a.m. They have a lot of energy and excitement and are ready to go. It is fun to have kids that want to be here all of the time and get better.”

This season will be closer to normal after a relatively chaotic 2020 season. Last year, teams were not allowed to participate in tournaments, which allow coaches to try out different lineups and rotations.

It is also common for high school basketball teams to wait a few weeks to get football players in the starting lineup. But the pandemic pushed back the start of the football season last year, leaving several teams without key players until right before the start of district play.

Smith said he is happy there will be more of a normal schedule this season.

“That is key,” he said. “Those kids are going to get to play a full year. It is just awesome.”

The Indians start their season Nov. 6 against Baytown Lee on the road. PNG’s first home game is Nov. 9 against Bridge City. The team will participate in Bridge City’s tournament Nov. 18-20. District play opens against Nederland Dec. 21.