Boys basketball: Kiona-Benton's Aguilar is growing up quick

January 7, 2013 

Learning responsibility can be a tough nut for a teenager.

At the same time they’re learning how to be a good student, a good friend or a good teammate — or all of the above — reality can set in pretty fast.

A friend might get hurt or a family member might need some extra help, putting life in perspective for a young mind still discovering how to live a positive and productive life.

For Cristian Aguilar, a 17-year-old Kiona-Benton High senior, that perspective has come quickly. Instead of folding under the pressure of impending adulthood, however, he’s fully embraced the chance to grow.

The 6-foot-1 guard recently became just the third Ki-Be boys player to score 1,000 points in a career, along with Joe Feuerborn (1,053 points from 1974-75) and Kirk Westerfield (1,134 points from 1986-87). After 10 games, Aguilar has 1,064 points, and based on his season average of 16.6 points, he should pass Westerfield on January 22 against River View in Finley.

He’s also tied for fifth on the school’s all-time single-game scoring list with a 32-point effort against Sunnyside Christian in mid-December.

“I feel like I’ve really accomplished something at Kiona-Benton High School. It makes me really proud,” Aguilar said.

But his basketball accomplishments are a mere cross-section of who he is off the court. His parents , Maria and Ricardo, will likely be at the record-breaking game along with his five siblings.

One of his sisters, 22-year-old Arely, was born with Cerebral Palsy, which affects her ability to walk and talk. But when Cristian is around, she brightens up the same way her brother can light up a scoreboard.

“He comes home and she gets really happy,” said Cristian’s younger sister Janet, a freshman soccer player for the Bears. “They start to talk about their day.”

Cristian also helps out plenty around the house. When his mom hosts team dinners, Cristian is often the last one to eat, instead making sure that his teammates and family have had a chance to hit the table.

“He’s a very hard worker. He tries to do his best for the team,” Maria said. “He’s very good at helping with Arely. He always manages to have time to help his family.”

Aguilar admits much of the example comes from his father, a devoted family man with a tireless work ethic. And his reward comes from the glow of a happy family and good friends.

“That’s what responsibilty is. It’s helping others out,” he said.

On the court, Cristian had to switch to point guard after Anfernee Cortez injured his foot early this season. After three years at 2-guard, however, his transition has been a smooth one.

In fact, his scoring average has increased nearly two points a game over last season. He also leads the team in assists and rebounds.

“He’s adapted really well. There was no point in not putting him there,” said fellow senior Mick Phelps, Aguilar’s teammate in basketball and football all four seasons. “He still gets his points. The only difference is he has the ball more.”

And trust Kiona-Benton coach Jack Rose when he says that’s not a bad thing.

“I tell him all the time I’m going to miss him,” Rose said. “I’ve known him since seventh grade. He knows when I take him out exactly why I did it. “At the end of games or after practice, I’ll ask him, ‘What do you see?’ “

In most cases, it’s another three hours of work at Little Caesars pizza, where he handles a variety of tasks with ease, earning the trust and respect of his boss, Sarah Jimenez.

“He takes responsibility. If I put him in charge of something, he’ll do it, and if he doesn’t find something to do, he’ll ask,” Jimenez said. “Right now, we’re trying to train him on the register, and he’ll be good at it once he overcomes his shyness.”

Aguilar got the job three months ago during football season to put a little extra spending money in his pocket, but he’ll chip in to help his family, too. Mostly, he enjoys the reward of a job well done, something people are quite used to seeing from Aguilar.

“I feel like I’m becoming a young adult,” he said. “I didn’t want to be begging my parents for money. I wanted to work for my own money.”

He also wants to further his basketball career after high school. He has expressed some interest in playing for Columbia Basin College.

But first things first: There’s the small issue of breaking the school points record.

“I’d rather go to state,” Aguilar said. “That was what we always used to talk about on our AAU team. That seemed liked such a big deal.”

With Aguilar at the point, there’s no reason he can’t do both.

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