Bassett in paradise …

What’s the world coming to when high school football teams from the SGV are opening the season in Hawaii?

I asked “The Boss” to send me to Hawaii to cover this game … I’m still sitting here at my desk.

Should I ask to see the photos or find out about the actual game first? Here’s the story by Steve Ramirez, who finally found his way back into the mix.

By Steve Ramirez Staff Writer

LA PUENTE – Over the years, Bassett High School students have not always had a lot of reasons to be proud of the school’s football team.

There was the Marshawn Thompson era, when the Olympians ruled the Montview League during the late 1980s, and a few other memorable seasons. For the most part, however, Bassett fans have had relatively few opportunities to shout.

Now fast forward to today, where the apathy on campus has been replaced by an aura of excitement.

The football team is traveling to Hawaii to play in the Kona Kickoff Classic on Friday, getting a jump on other area schools. In addition, the school’s football stadium is undergoing a $2.2 million renovation that will include new bleachers, a new scoreboard, a state-of-the-art all-weather track and a SprintTurf field.

Adding to the increased visibility of the school’s football program, Bassett recently hosted an NFL Developmental Camp for the third consecutive year.

Yes, these are exciting times at Bassett.

“We’re trying to get away from the negative image that we’ve endured in the past,” second-year coach John Paredez Jr. said. “Bassett is not a dirty place; Bassett is not ugly, Bassett is not evil.

“I’m going to do whatever I can do to show the rest of the planet that we are a beautiful school. There’s a new attitude going on, and everyone is catching it.”

That sense of excitement has been accelerated by the trip to Kailua Kona, Hawaii to face Kealakehe High in the Kona Kickoff Classic. It’s an invitation that fell into the Olympians’ lap as a result of Paredez’s past associations.

The event’s organizer watched a game in Texas that involved a coaching friend of Paredez. One thing led to another and the Bassett coach received an offer to participate in the game.

“Obviously, this is something that’s never happened at our school,” Paredez said. “I used to recruit Hawaii when I coached (at the collegiate level), and I used to go to some of those games. I never thought I would be a part of one, and I’m sure the people at our school never thought they would be part of one, either. There’s a sense of energy … it’s beautiful.”

The traveling squad will include 35 players, seven coaches and three administrators.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” senior wide receiver/ defensive back Jesus Moreno said. “It’s going to be a great experience. I feel like a college player going on a road trip.”

The school funded the trip almost entirely on its own, with car washes, bake sales and swap meets. Paredez
also said they are getting support from boosters and private donations.

“The game plan was to prove to my district, my administration, that these guys can be depended on, can be young men and be responsible to raise money and try to make things happen for themselves,” Paredez said. “They do the work, and they worked their tails off.”

The district also kicked in roughly $2,000 for the trip. Paredez was also able to strike a deal with a travel agent that will allow parents and family members to make the trip for about $700.

“The school we are playing is three times bigger than us,” said Robert Watanabe, Bassett School District Superintendent. “Our kids are pretty excited. I told them (last week) that nobody in the state, nobody in the country, is getting new uniforms, a new field and gets to go to Hawaii.”

The other excitement going on at the campus is the renovation of the football stadium.

The field and bleachers are expected to be in place when the team returns for its home opener on Sept. 15 against Irvine Beckman.

“It’s going to be state-of-the-art,” Watanabe said. “It’s something for (Bassett) to be proud of. We just want to provide good things for our kids.”

The track is expected to be completed by January. Watanabe said the plan is to be able to eventually host a Bassett Relays event during the track and field season and a soccer tournament during the winter. He also hopes to be able to host CIF-Southern Section track and field preliminaries.

For many, these improvements were a long time coming.

“For our community, this is our USC, our UCLA,” said Paredez, whose is hoping his team can improve on last season’s 1-9 record. “In our community, everything surrounds the high school.

“It’s my program, it’s their program, but the excitement surrounding everything is that we have this attitude now where everything is going to feed off a successful football team.”

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2684

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