As a 1975 graduate of Mission High School and as a three-year varsity basketball player for Coach Roy Garcia’s Eagles, Juan Reyna was known among most of his classmates and friends as “La Palma” (the palm tree). Standing at 6’5” tall it was easy to see why he would have been given such an unusual nickname. However, what not many knew was that Reyna received that moniker long before he reached his impressive stature. That’s because it was as a child that Reyna was affectionately called “La Palmita” (little palm tree) after his 6’3” tall father…the original “La Palma”. It was not until many years later that Reyna grew into what became his size appropriate nickname.
Upon graduating from Mission, Reyna went on to play college ball first at Laredo Junior College for two years and then at Dallas Baptist University for two years. Reyna then returned to Mission High School where he coached under Garcia for five years before taking his first head coaching position at Donna High School.
“Richard Avila hired me to be the head boys basketball coach at Donna,” said Reyna. “I was there three years before I moved on to Weslaco. I was at Weslaco two years. The first year I coached sub-varsity boys and the second year I was the girls head coach.”
With subsequent jobs at McAllen Memorial, San Benito, Valley View and now at La Joya Palmview, Reyna has spent his entire 29-year coaching career in the Valley. Over that nearly three decade period, Reyna has never shied away from a challenge. Taking on a struggling Lady Lobos basketball program in only its third year of existence, as he did two years ago, is a perfect example.
“I’m not someone that will go and look for a winning program,” said Reyna. “I’ve always been a builder. There are coaches that in my opinion that won’t take over a program unless they know they’re going to win. I want to build a winner not inherit one.”
If Reyna is to have a winning program at Palmview he will certainly have to build it. During the first four years of Lady Lobos’ basketball, wins have been extremely few and very far between.
“Tommy Garcia, who is now the head football coach and athletic coordinator at Juarez-Lincoln High School, was the girls basketball coach here for the first two years and this is my third,” said Reyna. “Tommy built that foundation here but they had won one district game and now we have won two. We’ve taken some baby steps here but it’s been quite a challenge.”
Having gone winless in District 30-5A competition his first two years at Palmview, Reyna’s baby steps are finally starting to help the Lady Lobos be competitive against district opponents.
“My first year here we were 5-25,” said Reyna. “We didn’t win any district games so we were 0-14 in district. It was a rough year. Last year we had the exact same 5-25 record and we didn’t win any district games either. This year we’re 10-12 overall and 2-4 in district play.”
The Lady Lobos will be closing out the first round of district play tomorrow against Edinburg Economedes. Tuesday of next week they will begin the second round against the Lady Huskies.
“We open up against Juarez-Lincoln which has been one of our district wins,” said Reyna. “Our other win was against Donna. When you beat a stellar program like they have at Donna that says something about your program. That was a big win for us. Irma Avila has left quite a legacy of championships there at Donna so for us to go in there and win tells me that we’re heading in the right direction.”
With four seniors, two juniors and two sophomores on this year’s Lady Lobos team, Reyna has a good mix of experience and youth to work with.
“Gabriela Rodriguez (senior) is our captain,” said Reyna. “That young lady plays multiple sports but I’m very proud of her because she’s what I call our go-to girl. There are times that she’ll get double-teamed but she’s averaging 16-18 points a game right now. She was averaging 20 earlier in the season but they’ve really covered her very effectively lately. She’s really the backbone of the team.”
“Issel Sosa (senior) is our point guard,” said Reyna. “She’s somebody that we really rely on. She’s like our quarterback because she has to know what everybody is doing. We’ve also got Priscilla Trevino. She’s a junior so she’s coming back next year.”
Other members of the Lady Lobos 2012/2013 varsity squad are seniors Amber Garza and Mayra Calderon, junior Gladys Salinas and sophomores Evelyn Guerrero and Monica Noyola.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.