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One of the hallmarks of northern New Mexico basketball has been an up-tempo, aggressive style of defense that leads to transition buckets.
That’s what Nestor Trujillo is hoping to infuse into the Los Alamos Hilltopper program.
Trujillo was named the head coach of the Hilltoppers today.
Most recently, Trujillo was an AAU coach and was a top assistant at Los Alamos’ archrival, Española Valley.
One of Trujillo’s duties at Española Valley was to scout the Sundevils’ opponents, including Los Alamos. He said that insight into the Hilltoppers’ program is going to help him out in his new position.
“Since last year, I actually made it to a lot of games,” he said. “I’ve scouted them a lot and I know quite a bit out them on paper.”
Because he was just hired, he said he is a little bit behind the curve — most programs around the state have extensive summer workout programs — but he said he’s hoping to have his assistant staff in place in short order and get with the returners to, if nothing else, go over his offensive and defensive terminology to have them up to speed by the time regular workouts get going.
Trujillo will be taking over for Ann Stewart, who resigned the post to take the athletic director’s position vacated in the spring.
When he does start preseason workouts in November, he will inherit a talented but inexperienced group of returners.
Los Alamos, which finished 13-16 overall, advanced to the state Class 4A tournament in 2013-14 before falling in the opening round to St. Pius X. However, the bulk of that squad was made up of seniors, most prominently among those were guard McKenzie Logan and forward Kiana Zerr, who represented a big chunk of the team’s points on offense.
The team lost eight seniors and, of those who are earmarked to return, only point guard Amber Logan was a regular starter. Makaela Jones, who will be a junior in 2014-15, showed promise during the District 2-4A season in the paint, and Jordan Duran was a regular varsity reserve for the first half of last year.
Trujillo said he’s seen Los Alamos’ returning talent and thinks they have the athleticism to run the up-tempo, attacking sets he wants to install.
“I’m coming in with some high hopes and aspirations,” Trujillo said. “This is a great opportunity. The whole environment, from what I’ve seen so far, is one of the best environments I have ever been associated with.”
He said he was also impressed with the academic foundation his players have been set on and he feels that’s just as important as their basketball foundations.
Along with Los Alamos’ returners, several sub-varsity players performed very well for the Hilltoppers and some of those were called up to the big squad at the end of the season.
Los Alamos will move up to Class 5A, but that move is largely administrative rather than fundamentally different than it has seen since moving to 4A in 2000. With only a few exceptions, most of the teams that were in 4A last year will be joining Los Alamos in 5A.
One notable exception, however, is Santa Fe, Los Alamos’ district rival for four years. Santa Fe will be playing in a killer district in Class 6A along with Cleveland and Volcano Vista, among others.
Santa Fe won the girls basketball 4A title last season and, with its returning nucleus, appears to be one of the few Demon teams that is built to compete at the 6A level.
Heading into this season, Los Alamos and Española Valley are poised to duke it out for the 2-5A title. Santa Fe’s replacement in the district, Del Norte is something of an unknown quantity, as is Bernalillo.
Española Valley, which has a plethora of returning talent from a successful 2013-14 season, is currently looking for a head coach.
Along with being a head coach at the AAU level — a position he’s stepping down from following a tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., coming up — and an assistant with the Sundevils, Trujillo was also a volunteer talent scout for Northern New Mexico College.
Trujillo said one of the key mentors during his career has been Northern coach Ryan Cordova. Cordova has turned the once-defunct Eagles’ program into a respected team at the NAIA level and has taught Trujillo much.
For now, Trujillo said he’s excited to get going at Los Alamos but knows a lot of eyes will be on him to see where he can steer the Hilltopper program.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this opportunity,” he said. “Now it’s time for the rubber to meet the road.”