By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
Former UNLV basketball star Danny Tarkanian visited Moapa Valley High School last week to help inspire and motivate members of the Pirate Boys Basketball program as they went into their last games of the season.
Tarkanian was a star point guard for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball team from 1981-1984, the first time the team was ever ranked #1 in the nation. He played under Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian, who was also his father.
Tarkanian took the opportunity last week to share many of the things he learned from his father with the MVHS players.He spoke about the qualities that his dad instilled in him when he was playing ball.
“Before you can play, you must be mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared,” Tarkanian told the students.
He also instructed them that physical preparation is what they gain in practice, but the other two qualities: mental and emotional preparation are up to them.
Tarkanian stressed the importance of physical practice, saying that it is through repetition that habits are formed. “Practice does not make perfect,” he said. “Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
Tarkanian is a big fan of sports, especially basketball. He believes that by participating in sports, youth can learn many life lessons that will lead them to success.
“Playing sports teaches you to have a good work ethic, how to handle adversity, how to compete, how to take instruction, how to accept constructive criticism, and how to work as a team,” he told the boys. “In short, it teaches you the skills you will use in any job or career to become successful.”
Tarkanian said that he first became acquainted with the Moapa Valley community through his Tarkanian Basketball Academy, which he established in 2002. Current MVHS basketball coach Kevin Walker used to take a group of Moapa Valley kids to Vegas to participate at the academy for a number of years. Those players that Walker brought to the academy are now freshmen.
These days Tarkanian is busy in the world of politics. He is currently running in the Republican primary race for U.S. Senate against incumbent Dean Heller. For the past few months he has been focused on campaigning throughout the state. Nevertheless, he said that he was more than happy to take a moment away from all of that and come talk to the Pirate teams about basketball.
“I still take a huge interest in basketball and I love to take a break from the campaign trail and stop by high school games and practices when I can,” Tarkanian said. “I love the kids and I love the game and I really love the youth of Nevada and want to see them succeed.”
Dallas Larsen, Head Varsity Basketball Coach for MVHS, explained why the team had invited Tarkanian to come speak to the boys. “We’re down to the last week and only have two more games left,” Larsen said. “We didn’t make the playoffs this year so it’s tough to keep the kids motivated. We thought it might be a good idea to have him come talk to the boys and maybe give us that little extra we need coming into this last week.”
In addition to the talk, the teams had a bit of fun with Tarkanian. They chose one of their best shooters on the Varsity team, Dallas Larsen. He went head-to-head with Tarkanian in a free throw shootout.
Larsen went first and the suspense was high. He successfully sunk his first two shots while the boys cheered. Tarkanian met the challenge, however, also making his first two shots. The contest went into sudden death when Larsen missed his next shot. But Tarkanian missed as well. The shots continued back and forth for a couple rounds. In the end, Larsen missed a shot that Tarkanian made, leaving Tarkanian the winner.
All the boys were familiar with Coach Jerry Tarkanian and were excited to get to meet his son.
“I thought it was inspirational,” said senior Nathaniel Thompson. “It was cool to see what his dad taught him that he passed on to us.”
Freshman Garrett Clove agreed, saying, “I thought it was pretty interesting to hear from someone who knows a lot about the game and has gone far with it.”