Basketball still in blood of Wildcat alumni

By Rick White

Tony Aburto’s passion for the game of basketball still burns.

Aburto, who played for the Clovis High Wildcats in 1995-96, said he plays three to four times a week, and in 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 tournaments whenever he gets a chance.

A collections officer in town, the 6-foot-8 Aburto is one of 14 former Wildcats expected to compete in the third annual alumni game at 6:30 p.m. today at Rock Staubus Gym. The game is sponsored by the CHS boys basketball booster club.

“I just like playing against good competition,” Aburto said. “I really like playing against the younger guys because they have so much energy.

“If I can’t beat them I just foul them.”

The game, a fund-raiser for the booster club, was postponed a week due to a scheduling conflict at the gymnasium.

Booster club President Jessica Belford said it was hard to find enough players this year because of prior commitments.

There was even talk of canceling the event, Belford said.
“But after I talked to some of the guys, they said they really wanted to play,” she said.

One of those was 1973 grad Bobby Hill.

“It’s fun to play with some of the old guys,” said Hill, 49, who still plays in 3-on-3 tournaments a few times a year. “I still think I can give them three or four good minutes.”

Hill, 49, who played on a team that included former Major League Baseball player John Harris, admits his days of playing competitive basketball are numbered.

“Last year, I was side-by-side with one of the young guys at halfcourt,” he said, “by the time he got to the basket, he had a step-and-a-half on me. That would have never happened even a few years ago.”

Some of the players expected to play tonight are 2004 grads Bud Willis, Mario Caswell and Justin Pinckney, Eastern New Mexico University senior Irshaun Pinckney and recent Sul Ross University grad Justin Steward.

Two-time slam dunk champion Hank Baskett, who plays wide receiver at the University of New Mexico, had a previous engagement. All-time greats Nelson Franse and Bubba Jennings are also unable to attend.

Aburto said the game is a way of keeping in contact with former teammates and fans.

“It lets them see some of the older players, and they’ll say, ‘I remember him,’” said Aburto, who played under Coach Steve Sieppel.

Belford said the booster club is hoping to change the format of the event. She said she’s in the process of setting up a Clovis-Hobbs alumni game that would serve as a fund-raiser for both booster clubs.