Hoover Patriots move forward after accident

Fresno, CA

"Use what's happened. Embrace it," said French. "Let's grow from it. Let's try to become better people from it."

His players have listened. Last month an assistant coach and five Patriot players were injured when their van crashed on the way to a tournament in Aptos.

"I know it's hard for them to see us play," said senior guard Chris Zakar. "I know they're dying to be on the court."

Two of them have been able to return to the team, but three starters remain on the sidelines with an assortment of injuries. They are unable to play, but never far from their teammates' thoughts.

"Before I play, that's what gets me motivated," said senior guard Jesse Jimenez. "To play for my guys that are not playing, that are sitting on the bench watching me play."

"We know they're competitors," said senior forward Craig Simpson. "We know they want to win. So we go out there and win for them."

Simpson admitted he and his teammates think about the accident often.

"Every day," Simpson said. "Every time I look at Ben, Shorty and AJ, it just brings back what happened."

But the Patriots are showing maturity beyond their years, taking a distressing situation and finding the positives that have helped them jump out to 9-and-5 record.

"It's like a bad situation but it turned out for the good you know?," Zakar said. "We don't want that to happen but a lot of good has come from this."

"You never want something like that to happen," French said. "But in the end I think it has made our kids really grow up and be appreciative of what they really do have in life. That's what I'm proud of them so much for."

Earning respect off the court, as well as on it, Hoover won't let anyone feel sorry for them. They still are, after all, the defending division three valley finalists. And they're on a mission to get back to the championship game.

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