As the Porterville College men’s basketball team is finding its way through a tough preseason basketball schedule, they have also found a new source of unexpected offensive firepower in 5-foot-7 guard Anthony “Mikey” Hidalgo.
The redshirt sophomore poured in a career-high 34 points in 34 minutes against Citrus College — Southern California’s top-ranked team — in an 87-76 loss last Friday at the San Diego City College Tournament.
Hidalgo was 12-of-19 from the field, sinking 5-of-10 three-pointers. It was a performance that had Citrus coach Chris Victor congratulating Hidalgo during a post-game handshake.
“The coach said, ‘you are one exciting player to watch’ and that meant a lot coming from their team,” said Hidalgo, who plays point guard and shooting guard.
The next night, Hidalgo scored 23 points in 39 minutes of action, leading PC to a 73-67 victory over Palomar College. He showed another side of his game — getting to the foul line, where he converted 10-of-12 free throws.
“Mikey did an amazing job going up against bigger guys and attacking the rim,” said teammate Jason Carmichael. “I joked with him, saying the small guys are able to get those calls from the officials. But he did a great job for us.”
Hidalgo, who turns 23 this Saturday, was a role player for head coach T.J. Jennings in 2009-10. Hidalgo graduated from DeWolf High School in Fresno, a school that does not offer varsity sports, so his exposure to organized basketball was limited to club teams and recreational pick-up games.
As a freshman at PC, he averaged 5 points and 10 minutes per game, as the Pirates struggled to a four-win season. His best scoring effort was 18 points in a preseason tournament. While sitting out the 2010-11 season, Hidalgo continued to work on his long-range jumper and ball handling.
He knew this year PC was also returning two highly-recruited sophomores at his position in Carmichael and Donald Lee. With Lee currently out with an injury, Hidalgo has stepped in to lead the Pirate offense.
“It’s a luxury to have depth at the point guard position,” said Jennings.
“Mikey has dedicated himself to our program for three years and has really come a long way. I’m proud of his attitude and what he brings to our team, as one of our leaders. People underestimate his skill level because of his size. Maybe now teams will take notice.”
So what is the main difference between Hidalgo’s freshman and sophomore seasons?
“Trust,” he said.
“Coach Jennings has put trust in me, and I have no choice but to go out on the court and prove it. Now, if I have to lead the team with Donald out for a while, then I have to carry that weight on my shoulders. This team has big expectations, so it’s up to me to help lead us.”
The men will play in the four-team Bakersfield College Thanksgiving Tournament, opening with Merritt College (3-3) of Oakland at 3 p.m. Friday. The winner faces the Bakersfield-Allan Hancock winner for Saturday’s championship game at 5 p.m.
The women (3-5) will play in the annual College of the Sequoias’ Tom Gilcrest Tournament next weekend. The Pirates open with Cerritos at 2 p.m. a week from today.