Therese Schwarz halted outside a conference room on Tuesday morning.
When the Our Lady of the Hills Principal spotted two basketball players — James Ibarra and Travis Reeh — conducting an interview with the Kerrville Daily Times, she grinned as she strolled into the room.
As soon as she discovered that Ibarra was getting his own feature story, she began listing some of his finest attributes. She mentioned Ibarra’s energetic smile, and how he always makes sure to politely greet her whenever the two meet in OLH’s hallways. Basically, she made it clear that Ibarra is an all-around good student athlete, deserving of his own profile.
“Of course,” Schwarz added, turning to Reeh. “James has a great role model.”
Before Schwarz entered the room, that same role model had spent the last 15 or so minutes showering Ibarra with compliments. Those attributes that Schwarz mentioned? His energy and happiness? Well, Ibarra has applied those same qualities on the basketball court, much to the delight of his teammates. Ibarra never stops hustling during OLH basketball games, and often does so with his signature smile.
“I love playing basketball with James,” Reeh said.
It’s easy to figure out why. After serving as OLH’s sixth man during his freshman season, Ibarra has blossomed into a full-time starter this year as a sophomore. His inexhaustible energy allows him to contribute to the Hawks in a variety of ways, as he’s averaging 8.5 points, five rebounds and 2.5 steals per game to propel the Hawks (15-7, 3-0) to No.3 ranking in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ TAPPS 3A poll. On Tuesday, he delivered one of his best performances of the season, burying 18 points in OLH’s 61-33 win over San Antonio Keystone to help the Hawks’ remain unbeaten in district play.
“He’s taken a really big step in maturity from a freshman to a sophomore,” OLH coach Chris Ramirez said “He’s doing so well across the board. He did great in football. He’s doing great in the classroom. He’s just become a more mature young man. I think he’s really enjoying all of the opportunities he’s been blessed with and making the most of it.
“He loves playing basketball.”
Ever since arriving on OLH’s campus, Ibarra has loved to compete. During OLH’s football season, he was a second team all-state selection, hauling in 51 catches for 1,002 yard and 25 touchdowns to help the Hawks clinch their first playoff berth since 2014.
But basketball remains Ibarra’s greatest passion. During the past football season, Ibarra often peppered Ramirez with the same question: “Are you ready for basketball, coach? I can’t wait for basketball season!”
He joyfully expresses that love during Hawks’ games. He enters every game with the two same goals: play suffocating defense and “hype up” his teammates. He usually accomplishes both. His quickness and long arms make him one of OLH’s best perimeter defenders. His energy allows him to snag rebounds from taller opponents and drive past defenders for layups.
“He’s a huge energy boost,” Reeh said. “He does everything: He rebounds, he scores. He passes. He wants to run so bad that sometimes when he grabs a rebound, he is ready to take off and run down the floor. And I got to tell him, ‘No, we have to set up the play.’
“He just want to go, go, go,” Reeh continued. “Which is great because he keeps every alive and energized. We all feed off it.”
Ibarra enlivens the team mood off the court as well, amusing his teammates by saying non-sequiturs during practice. Reeh remembers during one practice, when the Hawks were shooting free throws, Ibarra turned to his teammates and randomly said:
“Man, I hope my mom made mac and cheese tonight. I’m starving.”
According to Reeh, such comments occur regularly during OLH practices, and they never fail to make him laugh.
“James is a weird dude,” said Reeh, laughing. “But no, he’s awesome. He’s hilarious. James is one of the funniest guys I have ever met. He’s always saying random stuff that is making everyone laugh.”
Throughout the season, Reeh — OLH’s senior captain — has urged Ibarra to maintain his energy level — both on and off the court. He knows the Hawks will need it moving forward.
“The sky is the limit, especially with the energy he brings,” Reeh said. “ no one brings the same energy as he does and everyone feeds off that. It’s definitely a bring reason why we have a chance to get back to state.”