Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Talking with Talvin Hester

The saying goes "don't mess with Texas" and new SJSU Assistant Coach Talvin Hester is certainly familiar with the Lone Star State life, attitude and most certainly basketball.

That's because in Prairie View, Irving, Tyler, Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and undoubtedly other in-state locations are venues where he has established his hoops imprint as both coach and player and that influence continues to be felt today.

But he will indeed be doing some TX 'messing' of his own when utilizing his contacts there -- and elsewhere -- come recruiting time. Spiriting out a talent or two from any of those aforementioned towns and cities or say San Antonio, Pflugerville, Galveston or Austin and getting them to Silicon Valley is one of his goals as a Spartan.

So who is Talvin Hester? Here's the Cliff's Notes version, Spartanhoops style.

Well, he grew up playing football. Why was that his foremost sport? "I have an uncle who went to Ohio State and played 10 years in the NFL," Hester explained.

But he played every sport as a youngster and even earned letters in tennis during high school.

Eventually a growth spurt got him to 6-feet-4 and football was left as an avocation, sent to the wayside in favor of hoops.

His decision is our gain.

So why did he enter coaching?

"In college, I wondered what to major in as I had this vision of wearing a suit and working downtown," according to Hester. "That was a strong lure so I focused on business and marketing."

Then family issues intervened.

School was put on hold and he went to work at Delta Airlines.

But Hester felt "something was missing from my life."

In one of those moments of kismet, "one of my old coaches invited me to help coach an AAU youth team."

During the first practice, something clicked for Hester. "I knew I wanted to help young people."

So began his coaching résumé. It was a time to finish college (Texas Wesleyan), gain experience and build contacts. He accomplished just such, building his personal brand at multiple locations:

* Dallas Mustangs AAU team

* North Lake College

* Texas Rim Rockers, USBL

* Texas College

Hester was then hired on at Prairie View A&M and worked his way up to an Associate Head Coach position.

Prairie View A&M is part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which also consists of Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Grambling State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern and University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

The league plays an 18-game league schedule. His most memorable Panther season? "2008-2009 because we started 5-0, then lost four in a row but we went 7-2 in the second half of our schedule," Hester explained.

Especially in the second go-around, a change took place. "It was our 'D' that carried us," Hester offered. "Everyone can't score all the time but if we got stops, we knew we had the chance to be in every game. We decided to make defense important and focused on half court, man-to-man defense."

Then in 2009-2010, the transformation expanded when Prairie View finished 14th nationally in field goal percentage defense, 11th in three-point field goal percentage defense.

"We had been there for a few years, a year or two on the edge of being good," explained Hester. "We were losing games by 2, 3, 5, 7 points, losing 'easier' games on the road. Last season especially, our older guys took defending to heart and our new guys joined in."

We recall a couple of quotes we previously came across about general differences between California and Texas high school ball and asked Hester about this.

His reply: "It is different though not necessarily better in either place. It's like the PAC-10 versus Big 12 -- skill level versus hard-nosed physicality. There is a little more skill and finesse in California versus power and strength in Texas. But both translate into success. Of course, there are other situations too. Drew Gordon (Archbishop Mitty, UCLA and now New Mexico) plays like he is from Texas where someone like Nolan Dennis {a former Texas prepster now a sophomore-to-be at Baylor) is more California on the court."

Hester added, "In Texas, basketball was football-driven for so many years in that really good football players were good enough in basketball to play both sports. But in the last 10 to 12 years, players like T.J. Ford and Daniel Ewing came around. They were good and just basketball players -- they were not football kids."

The easily recognizable coaches Hester admires the most are Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan. The reason for his ardor: "They don't get the players Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas do but are always competing for the title and their players play tough."

In closing, if you do desire to mess with Coach Hester, begin with the fact that he is, yes, a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan.

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