Home Sports Local Sports Being a RAT turns foes into friends

Being a RAT turns foes into friends

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Roswell Coyotes basketball fans are used to seeing the familiar image of sharpshooting Tarren Burrola floating to the corner of the three-point line just waiting for what seems like forever until he can catch the ball, and in less than a second, catch and shoot, and without looking, turning around and holding both hands up signaling a good three-pointer.

Well, he’s at it again — this time he’s taken his quick release to the New Mexico Military Institute and has done the same thing in a practice scrimmage against players older, faster and quicker than him. Yet, Tarren is spotting up in the right corner and shooting it even quicker than when he was in high school.

The ball is let go just over the outstretched arms of a NMMI defender, once again: swish. It’s not hard to see that Tarren is quicker and harder with the conditioning he has undergone — the confidence has become even more apparent because he knows that he can play with Division I players.

Tarren is continuing on the family tradition of going to NMMI, his dad and uncle, Moses and Chris Burrola went there, as well. Tarren was a two-time all-state basketball player at RHS while finishing with a 19-point scoring average over three seasons. He played as a freshman.

“NMMI is hard,” Tarren said, “but it’s not like my dad and uncle made it seem like. This game is a lot faster as well as the speed of the game. Players are bigger and stronger guys than me. I just have to work hard to get as fast as them.”

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Tarren is a 6-foot-1 sharpshooter that hit 325 three-pointers in the course of his career at Roswell High. He made a record 91 threes his junior year. Even with all of those accomplishments, Tarren could have played basketball at other places, but wanted to test himself against the best basketball players to see if he was good enough to play with DI players. That’s why he chose NMMI.

“Tarren has exceeded my expectations from when he first got here,” NMMI coach Sean Schooley said. “He is better than I thought. He has listened and worked on his shot, not that his shot needed work. He’s worked on getting his shot off quicker. Tarren has done well in the Corp. He’s a good student and takes care of his business. He’s very coachable.”

Tarren is joined on the court by his former nemesis Jonah “Little General” Chavez of Goddard. Jonah at 5-foot-4 is the smallest player on the court, but pesters his teammates like a fly landing in ointment when he is on defense. Jonah is everywhere with his hands tipping a ball to a teammate for a steal leading to a fast break.

After that, coach Sean Schooley called a timeout to congratulate the players on their effort defensively and give the team instructions should they face that same situation in a game.

Current NMMI Bronco and former Goddard basketball player Jonah Chavez dribbles against Tohono O’odham Community College Friday at Cahoon Armory. (NMMI Sports Press Photo)

For Jonah, he has had to overcome odds his whole life. Not just because he is small, but because he is a competitor. He could have chosen to play it safe and stay at the small school Dexter, but he didn’t. He chose to bet on himself and transferred to Goddard.

People told him he was crazy and that he would not start or even play, and that he was making a mistake. Chavez didn’t listen and started as a junior. In his senior year, he wanted to play football and he went out and ended up making all-state as a defensive back his senior year.

He had a key interception against Artesia to turn that game around. He ended up leading Goddard basketball back to the playoffs and a trip to The Pit his senior year. At the end of his senior year, Chavez wanted to serve his country but wanted to continue his athletic career. He found a way to do that and is in the ROTC program and wants to be an officer. He can do that and still get his basketball Jones on.

It is surprising that both players are playing college basketball. The allure to be part of the culture and winning tradition, with the chance to be close to home, so that family and friends can watch them play. And the opportunity to get a first-rate education was something that was hard to pass over by the players.

Before coming to NMMI, both players knew each other and were friendly to the other but not friends. But after going through the things they have gone through and taking classes together, each has gotten to know the other and have become friends on the court and off.

“Being rivals through the high school years,” Jonah said, “we weren’t the best of friends. Now I think our relationship has gotten a lot stronger because we are on the same team and we see each other every day. We have classes together — we have seven classes together. We have the Roswell-Goddard High School stuff behind us and now it is NMMI.”

Both have gone through the 21- and 42-day ceremony. According to Jonah, it was days of being a RAT (Recruit at Training). Shaving their head and RAT walking as well as crawling in the dirt and running a certain amount throughout their training. After going through the struggle together, both Tarren and Jonah have been bonded through struggle, sweat and sacrifice despite a rivalry. They will forever be bonded by NMMI.

“I wish that in high school,” Tarren said, “I would have worked on being faster and quicker. For players in high school, the advice I would tell them is to stay in the gym and work on their game. Shoot a lot to be ready.”

Jonah likes the basketball at NMMI and hopes to make a contribution to the team this season. He also noted how dedicated the players are. The players are always in the gym working on their game and trying to get better.

“I can hang with these players,” Jonah said. “The players are taller than me, but that means I have to work harder and be faster and smarter. I’m willing to do it to try and get to that level. I’m going to try and make my teammates better than they are now, and that’s by going hard in practice every day.”

Jonah wishes he would have worked more on his jump shot in high school and he is always working on his confidence and game. He wishes he would have been more disciplined in high school to have worked on his game with the consistency he is now doing in his free time.

“Jonah came in on the ROTC program,” Schooley said. “He is going to be going into the service. Jonah has a great attitude, he wants to play and he’s a good team player. He doesn’t get into trouble and he’s a hard nose player. He’ll stick his nose in there at practice and he’s fearless. All three of the local kids are assets in their own way.”

NMMI has three local basketball players on the team, which includes Ramiro Grajeda, a sophomore from Gateway Christian; Tarren Burrola from Roswell; and Jonah Chavez from Goddard.

NMMI opened the season at home for the first time in 25 years with wins over Tohono O’odham Community College: 81-58 on Friday. On Saturday they defeated Strength N’ Motion, 78-63, to win the Bronco Classic.

During the Classic, Tarren Burrola scored six points and Jonah Chavez had two points, two assists and one rebound.

The Broncos will travel to Midland, Texas, to face Blinn College at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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