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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Houston Hoops captures title

    Hal Pastner, right speaks with Jim Storey, the creator of the Arizona Cactus Classic, on Lute and Bobbi Olson Court in McKale Center before the third annual Cactus Classic championship game on Sunday. Pastner built the Houston Hoops program with his son, Josh, a UA assistant coach who will soon leave for Memphis.
    Hal Pastner, right speaks with Jim Storey, the creator of the Arizona Cactus Classic, on Lute and Bobbi Olson Court in McKale Center before the third annual Cactus Classic championship game on Sunday. Pastner built the Houston Hoops program with his son, Josh, a UA assistant coach who will soon leave for Memphis.

    A historically strong pipeline of Arizona’s recruits proved worthy of playing at the college level this weekend, in McKale Center of all places.

    Houston Hoops won the third annual Arizona Cactus Classic tournament 70-67 on Sunday afternoon. It’s the team UA assistant coach Josh Pastner uses as a primary connection to the AAU basketball circuit.

    At just 16 years old, the Houston native ran practices and coached games on the team built by his father, Hal Pastner, in 1986. Now at 30, Josh will leave the Arizona men’s basketball program for an assistant coaching position at Memphis with a formal announcement expected in the next few days.

    “”Literally, I turned it all over to (Josh),”” said Hal, who was also in attendance this weekend. “”By the time he was 17, 18, 19, every one of these kids respected him (as the coach). They did everything he told them.””

    Josh may not be the only Houston native to leave the program. UA guard Nic Wise, whom Josh recruited from the Houston Hoops program, is contemplating transferring back home to Texas at this point, he told the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

    “”I just like to come out and support some of my old teammates and some of my friends that still play on team,”” said Wise, who watched the championship game right behind the Houston bench.

    Wise accompanied teammates Jawann McClellan and Fendi Onobun as the three Houston natives on last season’s Arizona roster.

    “”It’s like playing in front of a home crowd,”” said Tommy Mason-Griffin, a guard on Houston Hoops. “”Nic Wise, we’ve been friends since elementary and I know his dad, too.””

    Mason-Griffin earned tournament most valuable player honors with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists in the championship game over the Compton Magic.

    Mason-Griffin averaged 14.9 points and 4.0 assists per game in eight games over the weekend, including 25 3-pointers.

    “”The best players in the country are playing and it’s like, whoever comes with the energy at the end of the weekend is gonna take the chip,”” Mason-Griffin said. “”There’s a lot of games and energy levels get low.

    “”(Getting the MVP award) means a lot because I was here my freshman year and we played in the championship and we ended up losing by (19) to Pump N’ Run Elite,”” Mason-Griffin added, “”so it feels great to bring this back to Houston.””

    Keith “”Tiny”” Gallon, the 6-foot-8 center at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, didn’t make the trip to Tucson because he had scholastic duties, but Houston Hoops did a good job filling in for Rivals.com’s No. 4 center – and teammate of future Wildcat Brandon Jennings.

    With an immense amount of attention from scouts throughout the tournament, Mason-Griffin said the pressure to play and focus must be at the highest level.

    “”You just gotta come out hard and play hard and bring your ‘A’ game every game, no matter who you’re playing,”” he said. “”Some of the No. 1 seeds end up losing so you gotta play hard and compete every game.””

    Still officially a UA assistant coach, Josh was unable to watch the tournament games or communicate with players per NCAA rules, but was in McKale Center.

    Though always loyal to his father’s program, Josh believes the tournament brought together an impressive amount of talent not only from his Houston team, but coast to coast.

    To reach the championship game, Houston Hoops defeated Wisconsin Playground 53-52 and Boo Williams 58-38.

    Marland Lowe, the coach for Houston Hoops, said having Hal Pastner around helped the team tremendously.

    “”Hal is a phenomenal guy, man,”” Lowe said. “”Hal is always, always supporting the team. He’s going to do whatever it takes. He sits back and makes sure the score is correct. He sits back and he encourages the team. He helps keep everybody fouls. ‘Hey, you got two fouls,’ you know.

    “”He’s like an assistant coach on the bench,”” Lowe added. “”Without him, none of this would have been possible. “”

    There’s no doubt that Hal’s passion has been passed on to his son.

    “”There’s just so many good programs out there but the Hoops, that’s just the bloodline for myself, personally,”” Josh said. “”And this is just a great example from all the coaches here at the event because they’re giving them opportunities to expand their horizons beyond just basketball and see other parts of the country.””

    – Lance Madden contributed reporting

    Stay current with extended coverage from this weekend’s Arizona Cactus Classic with updates from the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

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