Coyotes return all five starters

Pete Garcia, Alice Echo-News Journal

It's good to be the Alice Coyotes basketball coach these days.

Those long looks of concern often worn by coach George Beltran have been replaced with smiles and some content. And why notů his Coyotes take the court this season loaded with experience.

Alice has a senior ball club, and is returning all five starters from last season's 15-15 campaign. The Coyotes were 4-6 in District 31-4A last season.

Moreover, the seniors on this year's team were eighth graders when Beltran took over as the school's head basketball coach. That means they know his system and for the first time in a couple of years, this program has confidence and a swagger.

"Their first practices we've had have been the best practices we've ever had as a team," said Beltran, who took over before the 2003-2004 season.

"We've looked very good and very sharp."

The Coyotes are led by senior shooting guard Marcus Zapata, an All-District and All-South Texas player last season. Zapata led South Texas in three-point shooting last season.

In this fall's edition of Texpreps Basketball Magazine, Alice was picked fifth behind Flour Bluff, Calallen, Tuloso-Midway and Kingsville, but Beltran said his team and its wealth of talent and experience is simply being overlooked.

"Something I read had Tuloso-Midway ahead of us because they had a good freshmen team who is going to fill in for them this season," Beltran said. "I told the guys, 'Do you think T-M's freshmen team from last year is better than us?' We're a veteran team and I think we're going to surprise a lot of people."

Alice played in its first preseason games of the season Saturday here against Edcouch-Elsa and John Paul II High School.

The Coyotes will play in their first game of the season Nov. 13 on the road against Gregory-Portland.