Flores brings competitive drive to Bulldogs

<p>Hermiston junior C.J. Flores, right, guards The Dalles-Wahtonka’s Hunter Malcolm in the Bulldogs’ Jan. 22 matchup with the Eagle Indians.?The Eagle Indians won the game 60-53. Flores is one of Hermiston’s most reliable defenders, but still has managed to average just under 10 points per game on the season</p>

For C.J.?Flores, the decision came down to competition.

Flores, a 5-foot-9 junior guard for the Hermiston?High?School boys basketball team, transferred to the Bulldogs after spending his first two seasons as an?Echo Cougar. Flores was suddenly surrounded by more than 15 times the students of his former school, and although his old friends were just down the road, he was in different territory, especially on the basketball court.

This, however, was the only way to peak.

“If I would've stayed at Echo this year, my junior year, there's no way I would've transferred my senior year,”?Flores said. “I thought about coming over here my freshman and sophomore year, and I stayed at Echo. I finally just decided that the best decision was to get over here if I wanted my skill set to get any higher.”

Flores had attended Echo since fifth grade, and when his family moved to Hermiston, he opted to stay comfortable and stay with what he knew in?Echo. Leaving Echo meant leaving his teammates and coaches, but Echo coach Ben Campbell knew Flores wanted to maximize his potential, and assured Flores that he only wanted what was best.

“I let him know that it was OK, and that (our team) would be OK,”?Campbell said. “He wants to play against guys that are better. He wants to match up with guys from the 5A schools. He brings the fire the way he plays; really aggressive defensively, and offensively he attacks the basket, and thats kind of missing (from our team) this year.”

Hermiston coach Adam Strom concurs with Campbell, claiming that he’s had to work with Flores to regulate his aggressiveness.

“He's so competitive and so intense he'll try and guard his man too tightly, so that's something we've tried to work on,”?Strom said. “He wears his emotions on his sleeve, so it's definitely noticeable to the team that he has a competitive edge, and it kind of bleeds out to them.”

Flores and fellow junior guard Ramon?Contreras are regarded by Strom as two of the most competitive and defensively savvy players on the team, but Flores spent a majority of his time in?Echo playing the role of scorer, and the combination of the two has molded him into one of the Bulldogs’ most reliable all-around players.

Strom can sick Flores on the opposing team’s best scorer, and still rely on him to make open shots - especially his signature shot, the baseline 3-pointer. On the season, Flores is averaging 9.5 points, three rebounds, and one steal per game.

“Having (junior) Jake Flyg and (senior) Alex (Ortiz) on the floor, teams have to give attention to those guys, not only because they’re solid players, but they have a bit of a reputation,”?Strom said. “Jake's a second year starter, and obviously Alex has played significant minutes for varsity. With those two guys drawing attention, sometimes C.J. gets some easier looks on offense.”

Strom said Flores showed signs of being overwhelmed by the size of the school and the increased level of competition. Strom found a quick fix in throwing him into a starting lineup.?Flores could no longer worry, or it would have shown on the court, and the only thing Flores is concerned about when he’s on the floor is winning.

Flores’ competitive nature also made worrying about inadequacies a waste of time, as every practice is a dogfight to stay in the starting lineup.

“When I came in, honestly I felt like there was something I needed to prove,”?Flores said. “Everyone's fighting for a spot, still in practice to this day, everyone's fighting for that varsity spot.”

Flores has found his spot on the team, but as long as the game is won,?Flores could care less what his “role” is.

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