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Class Of 17: 'Coachable' And Heading To High School

On this first day of school for most kids across the state, we check in with one of the North Texas students we’re following from 8th grade all the way to graduation. Today, we catch up with a member of KERA’s Class of 17 – Ricky Rijos Jr., who’s starting his freshman year at Flower Mound High.

 Leading up to this first day in high school, Ricky stayed busy the way he always has: playing and practicing basketball with his North Texas Heat traveling club, or playing ball with friends, or playing on his winning summer-league basketball team coached by his dad.

“I like it,” says Ricky.  “He’s a good coach and all my friends and I want to play for him, and we want to play hard for him.”

When Ricky's not playing, he’s ingesting basketball some other way.

“I usually just read sports news and articles like that, probably a couple a day. I just go onto an app or something and check the sports news and read the article.”

Ricky spent some of his summer away, like the rare few days at the Schlitterbahn water park in New Braunfels. But he’s happiest shooting hoops and that’s fine with his folks. Dad - Riki, Sr. - played basketball in college his two years there. And his mother, Jodie, finds her son’s obsession healthy.

“Both my kids do well in school,” says mom. “If they were behind in something or not up to standard, then we would be doing school work during the summer. But they work hard, they give me good grades, and this is their time to do their thing.”

Succeeding at both basketball and academics tops the list of goals that Ricky reviews every day. That’s because they’re taped to the closet door next to his bed.

“Well, for school, it was pass the STAAR test.” Ricky reads, from his list. “Make ‘A’ honor roll or ‘A-B’ honor roll at least, and no detention. For basketball, it’s play confident, handle the ball, be aggressive scoring-wise, lock down defense, hustle. For life it’s don’t talk back to my parents.”

Ricky posted his goals on the advice of his North Texas Heat coach.

“He said you’re not going to get goals achieved until you write them down and you look at them. And so, I wrote them down.”

Lee Green is Ricky's  North Texas Heat coach, who told him, and all members of the club, “You’ve got to be able to set goals, accomplish goals.  Because if you don’t know how to set goals, you won’t accomplish much in life.”

Lee Green runs the Christian basketball organization. Green was a basketball standout in high school, then at the University of North Texas, before turning semi-pro team. But he never reached the NBA.

“What my coaches and teachers in the past taught me – you’ve got to get your plan down, what it is that you want to accomplish. And it has to be more than just basketball.”

Green pushes smart, ethical play, hard work, and skills that he says create winners on or off the court. He prizes passion over height which suits Ricky, who’s not tall, but certainly passionate. Ricky's dad says his son extremely coachable, and not just on the court. 

“The teachers feel the same way about him, that he’s very coachable or teachable in the classroom,” says Ricky's dad. “When he comes home he knocks out the homework. He’s very regimented and very systematic in his behaviors and that’s the way he is. Kind of like his sock drawer. His sock drawer - everything is organized like to the ‘T.’”

Ricky acknowledges an ardor for order.

“I just like order and structure. I like structure and planning your day out. And not just, like, seeing how it happens.”

Which may explain why he’s ready for high school. It’s not confusingly big, scary or crowded. It’s an orderly set of rooms and hallways, where a structured sequence of subjects are taught.                        

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.