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Hart boys basketball: On his own accord

As Hart’s only returning player, Preston has taken it upon himself to improve his game

Posted: January 13, 2010 9:35 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Hart High junior forward Cole Preston is the only player on the roster who saw varsity playing time last season. Despite occasional bouts with confidence, Preston has become a force for Hart.

Cole Preston got a taste of varsity basketball success last season.

Hart finished second in the Foothill League and advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division IIIAA quarterfinals.

The Indians went 21-9 and were the only Foothill League team to defeat league champion Golden Valley.

Last year, there were plenty of defining moments.

When this season started, there was just Preston.

He and classmate J.J. Mosolf were the only two players returning for 2009-10.

Mosolf then suffered a freak knee injury last fall, forcing him to miss maybe the entire season and leaving Preston as the lone returning player with significant varsity experience.

Even before the injury to Mosolf, Preston wasn’t worrying about the inevitable weight on his shoulders. He was looking at it as an opportunity.

“I didn’t really feel the pressure this way,” says Preston, now a junior. “I was glad I got to play with my class.”

He was referring to classmates such as Mosolf and talented guard Roman Delgado, whom Preston says have been on his offseason travel teams for several years.

Hart head coach Tom Kelly says Preston didn’t show much emotion whenever the coaches sat down with him after last season and talked about the future.

In his new surroundings, the 6-foot-3-inch junior has arguably become Hart’s biggest weapon. According to Kelly, Preston is leading the team with 14 points and five rebounds per game and shooting 50 percent from the floor.

Kelly also says he has an uncanny understanding of the game and the ability to see things on the court others can’t.

So what’s the next step?

“Not getting down on himself,” Kelly says. “He’s really hard on himself and we just say, ‘Go out and get the next play. Don’t worry about the previous play.’ He kind of holds on to it.”

Preston admits he struggles with his confidence from time to time.

“I’d say that’s my biggest weakness,” he says. “When our momentum swings, I kind of fall into that bad mindset that we’re not doing well anymore.”

Hart hasn’t done very well so far this season. The Indians are only 5-13 and lost their league opener by 18 points to Valencia on Tuesday night.

Then again, the teams that the Indians have lost to are a combined 43 games over .500, and several of the losses have been by less than 10 points.

“I’d say the whole thing was a learning experience,” Preston says. “Looking back, we’ve just got to take the little things we did wrong and fix them.”

One big thing Preston did to help his confidence was work on his game over the summer.

He says he worked on his shot in particular, hoping to be able to get into a rhythm in games and keep hitting shots even when he tires.

Preston wants his shot to be as reliable as his devotion during the offseason.

“He was calling the coaches when we had some down time,” Kelly says. “He was seeing if we’d open the gym so he can shoot. He was wanting to get in and hit the weight room. We’ve just got to get the rest of his game to catch up.”

Kelly believes that if Preston learns to maintain his confidence level and continues to improve his game, he can eventually be an impact player.

In Hart’s system, the Indians spread out the scoring load and rarely lean on one player.

Still, if Preston’s talent is any indication, he’s more than capable of being a go-to guy the rest of his career.

“The coaches say I have the potential and all these things I need to be a guy who can defend and create and be unselfish,” Preston says.

Preston has already proven he can handle heavy graduation losses.

If he can become that player, there will be plenty more basketball success to come.



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