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Jose Garcia

Multimedia Journalist/Historian

Watchful eye guiding Sierra Linda basketball

Dec 18, 2012

                (Sierra Linda coach Ramon Marks talks to his his team at halftime during a recent game. Photo by Jose Garcia/

Twenty minutes before his team’s most recent game started, a spirited Ramon Marks pointed out what his team needed to correct if it wanted to improve.

When Phoenix Sierra Linda returned to its locker room at halftime leading by more than 20 points, Marks first let his team know that it committed too many turnovers in the first two quarters.

Just by listening to Marks you would have never known his boys basketball team was 13-1 and a state title contender. But it takes a lot more than a shiny regular season record to reach elite level status.

And Marks knows that if his team doesn’t correct its mistakes at this point in the season, it might not go as far as it wants in the postseason. But even if Sierra Linda reaches its goals, something tells us that Marks still won’t be satisfied.

Like a parent, Marks wants his boys to succeed and will do all he can to make that happen, even if he has to spend most of his days at Sierra Linda. So far his plan is working, and it didn’t take Marks long to prove his worth.

The 38-year-old coach opened Sierra Linda’s basketball program with a freshman team that went 0-13, but Marks hasn’t had a losing record since then and guided Sierra Linda to the postseason during its first two varsity seasons.

“We set a good solid foundation,” Marks said. “The focus was not so much on wins but establishing a good foundation and how were we going to play to outwork the other team.”

Marks brought an exciting brand of basketball — up-tempo, strictly man-to-man defense — to the school.

But to play on his team, Marks’ boys know that they need to look out for each other and take care of their classroom work. Mandatory study halls are part of the basketball course work at Sierra Linda.

On the court, Sierra Linda is a model of sportsmanship and unity. The players don’t trash talk or talk to the officials.

They hustle off the court when a timeout is called, and, to show solidarity, when a Sierra Linda player runs off the court to take a break, every player on the bench stands up and shakes that players’ hand. In Sierra Linda’s system, players log a lot miles while running their dribble-drive motion offense and defending.

Marks’ basketball philosophies were influenced by the “Showtime” L.A. Lakers of the 1980s and “Running Rebels” of UNLV when they were coached by Jerry Tarkanian. But because not that many tall players are walking around Sierra Linda, Marks also had to implement a game plan that could help his program compete with programs with taller players.

But if a 6-foot-9 blue chipper were to show up at Sierra Linda, you can bet that Marks would tell his players to slow down so that his tall player can touch the ball, he said. Marks grew up in Las Vegas and played basketball at Eastern Oregon University and Grand Canyon University, where he also served as an assistant coach.

He also served as an assistant at Tolleson High before being hired at Sierra Linda. At Sierra Linda this year, Marks has an experienced team with good chemistry and a deep bench.

A lot of the players grew up playing on the same teams. Marks also leans on his coaching staff to help guide his quick team.

He allows his assistants, Jared Aasen and Ernest Pouncy, to chime in whenever they want to. So far, the advice and dedication of the coaching staff has allowed Sierra Linda to get off to a great start as a program.

“I hear that I live at the school,” Marks said. “But this is my head coaching post. It’s almost like a baby to me. I’m trying to take care of it. I love being around kids, and I’m a gym rat. I really enjoy practice.”