FAIRFIELD — The Rodriguez High boys basketball team and coach Nate Rankin are attempting to start a tradition.
The Mustangs are hosting the inaugural Holiday Stampede, which runs Thursday through Saturday, with games at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. each day.
Rodriguez (7-1) opens play against Elsie Allen at 1:30 p.m., Thursday.
Rankin said the school was ready to have its own boys tournament.
“I think what we are trying to do is change some things,” Rankin said. “It was time. It was just time. The time was right for it. We thought it was a good time to shake off some rust (right after Christmas). We were in the Fairfield tournament, but it didn’t happen.”
Other teams in the first-ever tournament include San Rafael, Wooster High from Nevada, Damonte Ranch from Nevada, Riordan of San Francisco, Benicia and Mt. Diablo.
“(The field of teams) is pretty strong,” the coach said. “If you look at Riordan, they are a team we lost to (in another tournament). Damonte could be strong, too. Benicia is trying to find chemistry and San Rafael appears strong. It was just time for Rodriguez to put something together. It’s time to start a tradition. If it’s successful, we’ll keep it going.”
Rankin noted he’s trying to put Rodriguez back on the map.
“When I took over the job at Rod, I came from American Canyon,” he said. “(The district) had threatened to get rid of sports. A lot of kids left the program. Since last year and this year, we’re trying to change the culture to get the kids better.
“The kids are really buying into what we are sharing with them, and the parents and administrators. We had some success last year. I had four kids that were honor roll, and this year I have five. Why not this year. We are trying to change the culture of the basketball program.”
With only one loss so far this season, the coach thinks his team is starting to find its identity.
“The kids are coming together and believe in what they’re doing, just believing in what they are doing,” Rankin said. “I would say we keep it simple. The coaches coach and prepare the players to play the game. The players have to play the game.
“These kids are developing into really good basketball players and they work hard for what they believe in.”
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.