Sports

February 3, 2014

If it’s all the same to you

Romero cousins have similar hoops stories

CHATSWORTH — Sharing the Romero last name is the first of many similarities between Cesar and Omar.

Don’t let the difference in schools fool you. The cousins are a lot alike, both in their high school basketball careers, ages and personalities.

Cesar, a senior at Murray County, and Omar, a senior at North Murray, have taken leadership roles for their basketball teams which are dealing with an injection of youth one season after enjoying the riches of experience.

“He’s pretty much like my brother,” Omar said of Cesar.

Omar is the only senior for a North Murray team that is one year from finishing second in Region 5-3A and reaching the second round of Class 3A’s state postseason, the best single-season outcome in the program’s four-year history. Unlike that team, which had an all-senior starting lineup and another coming off the bench, this year’s Mountaineers have juniors (like Hinton McConkey), sophomores (like Drake McCowan) and a freshman in Noah Allen starting varsity games. North Murray is 13-8 overall and 5-6 in region games.

“I wish we had more seniors,” Omar said. “It’d be a lot easier for me. I have to lead and try to be a leader by myself.”

He admits being the only senior a year after having six brings extra pressure. But Omar is the always-smiling, always-encouraging type who doesn’t let the role of senior leader turn into a lesson of tough love.

“He’s laid back, relaxed and doesn’t put added pressure on himself,” North Murray coach Tim Ellis said. “Now, does that mean he doesn’t feel that (pressure)? He probably does, but he doesn’t show it. He’s a very positive kid.”

 Yet, Omar — like Cesar — is a team captain. He isn’t as vocal as last year’s seniors, which included The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year, Zach Vess, rather choosing the lead-by-example approach.

“He’s not the type who will get up or down whether he scores 20, doesn’t score at all or doesn’t take a shot,” Ellis said. “He’s going to do whatever it takes for his team to be successful. He understands a lot of the things we do are more guard-oriented.”

He replaces Vess, who signed a scholarship with Emmanuel College, as the team’s main post presence. Quietly averaging seven points and seven rebounds, he doesn’t bring the same length as the 6-foot, 5-inch Vess. At 6-3, Omar fits the Mountaineers’ fast-paced, basket-to-basket style, while Vess made North Murray most effective in half-court designs.

“Omar is more of a transition post,” Ellis said. “He can run the floor well. He has done a good job embracing that part.”

Cesar isn’t your traditional post player, either. Murray County coach Greg Linder started referring to Cesar as a “point post” because the 6-2 player also shares duties breaking opposing teams’ press defenses and setting up the half-court offense.

“He’s having to help us bring the ball up and then go down into the post and help us score,” Linder said. “And playing in the middle of our matchup (zone) defense, we expect a lot of him in playing post defense and rebounding the basketball.”

Last year’s Murray County Indians had seven seniors and finished 13-13. With Cesar as one of three seniors — with Nick Stiles and Jagger Childers — Murray County is 2-19 overall and 2-11 in Region 7-2A. Those three had bench roles last year. This season they are starters. Aside from three juniors, the rest of the program is all underclassmen.

“It has been tough but also a learning experience for them,” Cesar said. “Some of the plays they don’t time right.”

Averaging 10 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 44 percent, Cesar said he and his coach talked about the likelihood he’d become frustrated with the team’s struggles.

Linder only asks him to be patient.

“We’ve had the conversation along the year to not get down,” he said. “When you’re playing young players, especially sophomores, there will be times when they’re not going to make the plays just because they don’t know anything. They have to learn and also grow in confidence. That’s part of the frustration he has to deal with.

Like his cousin, Cesar isn’t a brazen leader who directs with his mouth. If there’s any evidence needed of his ability to lead a roster, it’s his aptness to keep composure and understand his senior season always would be filled with growing pains for the Indians.

“You just can’t get frustrated,” Linder said. “I say that, and at the same time, you can see it. He does get frustrated. He knows he’s open and can be doing something, and things happen. At the same time, he must remain patient and has done that for the most part all year.”

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