Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 | 2 a.m.
When the Durango High School boys basketball coaching staff canceled its weightlifting session on a recent Friday afternoon, Paris Estrada took the opportunity to do something he doesn't do often.
He ran home and took a nap.
Estrada, a junior, is a three-sport athlete at Durango, meaning he generally spends his days bouncing among the classroom, the weight room, the gym and the school’s other practice facilities.
It’s a schedule that has put him on track to earn a remarkable distinction: the first male athlete in Durango’s 20-year history to earn 12 varsity letters.
“Paris is a natural athlete,” Durango boys basketball coach DeShawn Henry said. “He takes to athletics very well. The three sports really help him because each sport has something to offer the next sport.”
Estrada plays soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and volleyball in the spring. As he finishes practice for one sport, he’ll move on to another activity, which usually means going into the gym and shooting jump shots.
“He always wants to be in the gym,” Henry said. “He’ll call me on the weekend and say, ‘Coach, can you open the gym?’ He’ll always try to figure out how to get into the gym and weight room after soccer practice and after volleyball practice.”
Henry doesn’t think Estrada has stretched himself too thin by devoting himself to more than one sport, adding he prefers his players to play at least two sports.
While some high-level basketball recruits stick to a strict sport-specific regimen to get better, Estrada keeps up with them, albeit through the unconventional ways of applying what he learns from his other athletic endeavors to the basketball court.
By playing soccer, Estrada improves his footwork and has developed an ability to see unique passing angles. With volleyball, he learns about timing his jump and improves his leaping ability. He juggles, which sharpens his hand-eye coordination. He also boxed as a young child, which helped improve his stamina.
“Everything is a different workout for my body,” Estrada said. “It helps me with my all-around game, especially with rebounds and defense.”
Basketball is his favorite sport, and it is where his future is the brightest.
When Estrada was a freshman, former UNLV coach Lon Kruger was a frequent spectator at his games and was even at some of Estrada’s soccer outings.
“I was amazed by it,” Estrada said. “There were plenty of kids playing basketball, and it was an honor for me to have him watch.”
Kruger moved on to Oklahoma a little more than a year ago — a move that disappointed Estrada, who had dreams of playing in a Runnin’ Rebel uniform — but it was just a small bump on Estrada’s recruiting road.
Henry lauded his junior’s ability to not let Kruger’s departure affect his approach to working hard.
“He’s just going with it,” Henry said. “He’s trying to focus on getting better as a basketball player and developing his game. Obviously, (having Coach Kruger around) as a freshman, that’s a big compliment. He took (the departure) in stride and continued to work on his game.”
UNLV’s interest has waned, which is probably due to the change in coaching philosophy that came when current coach Dave Rice took over, as Estrada might not be the right fit for Rice’s uptempo style of play. Estrada’s mentality isn’t necessarily score-first — his strengths lean more to defense and floor vision.
Even without UNLV, Estrada has a group of schools that have shown interest.
He listed Oregon State, San Diego State, Utah and Middle Tennessee (where former UNLV assistant coach Greg Grensing coaches) as a few schools that have talked to him about a scholarship.
He’s in no hurry to make a decision about where he wants to go given he has two full high school seasons and a summer ball season still to come.
“It’s been a pleasure to play in front of a lot of these coaches,” he said. “I look forward to it this summer and this school year.”