Azurin's sweet game

Daniel Azurin used to live in the Philippines until around the age of 9. The sugar business and a better life brought Azurin and his family to the U.S.

The family settled in Costa Mesa, but it kept its ties to the Philippines strong. The Philippines is where Augusto Azurin, Daniel's father, exports a minimally refined brown sugar called "muscovado" to the U.S.

Augusto also taught his son, Daniel, the game of basketball, the sport Daniel learned in the Philippines, where his dad played in college. Daniel never saw his dad in action at Adamson University in Manila. From what he has read in old newspaper clippings, Augusto was quite the player.

Daniel isn't so bad himself. In his senior season at Costa Mesa High, Daniel's game is just as sweet as the organic sugar his father's company sells.

Luckily for Augusto, he is able to watch his son play and then read about his performance afterward.

Azurin has been lighting it up on the court this season. Last week, he averaged 17.5 points and 3.5 three-pointers during the Mustangs' two wins on the road.

The biggest game turned out to be the one against La Cañada Flintridge Prep at Liberty Christian in Huntington Beach. What fired up Azurin and the rest of his teammates was that Flintridge Prep was ranked No. 15 in the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA poll and Costa Mesa was not. The Mustangs went into the matchup six games above. 500 and the Rebels five games below.

Azurin made sure Flintridge Prep dropped its sixth game in seven tries. The 6-foot guard knocked down five three-pointers to finish with 22 points in a 62-53 nonleague victory, helping Costa Mesa get off to its second 12-5 start in three seasons.

Azurin also contributed to slowing down Flintridge Prep's star guard, Robert Cartwright, who is bound for Stanford. The Mustangs used a 1-3-1 zone to hold the senior to 15 points.

"We had something to prove," says Azurin, who always feels like he has to perform because of his dad. "It's really hard to live up to his name. It's more of an obligation for me to train to be as good as him, or if not better. I'm just trying to live up to his name."

So far, Azurin is making plays and making his father, as well as his coach, Mike Molina, proud.

Molina is the second head coach Azurin has played for during his two years as a starter on varsity. When the first one, Dan Krikorian left before the start of the school year, the move surprised Azurin. He understood why Krikorian, after one season in charge of his alma mater, stepped down.

"We didn't really hold a grudge," says Azurin, knowing Krikorian took a better job as the top assistant coach with the Chapman University men's basketball team. "But we were like, 'Aw, we're going to start over again.'"

The coach the Mustangs turned to in August as their interim coach looked like a teenager. At the time, Molina was 22, four years from graduating from Costa Mesa.

Azurin, along with Kyle Hefner and Sean Comer, three key players from last season, have made the transition smoother for Molina, who turned 23 on Thursday. The coach used to go by "Mikey" when he played for the Mustangs from 2005 to 2009.

Molina dropped the "y" from his first name, but he relates well with his players, who are members of Generation Y.

"I love him," Azurin says. "I couldn't have asked for a better coach."

Molina deeply cares about each of his players. He says he learned from one of his former Costa Mesa coaches, Ryan Schachter, who's now in his eighth season at Corona del Mar, to take a genuine interest in players.

"The more you care about someone, the more you're going to get out of them," Molina says.

Azurin certainly goes all out for Molina, his teammates, his school, and of course, his dad. He is the youngest of four kids and the only son.

Azurin has emerged in his final season. And even though rival Estancia upset the Mustangs, 53-50, in an Orange Coast League opener on Wednesday, Azurin expects Costa Mesa (13-6, 1-1 in league) to contend for a league title.

He's a different player compared to last season, when Molina was an assistant. The Mustangs wanted more out of Azurin, and the staff used different techniques to get him going, yelling at him, being nice to him.

"You'd tell him, 'Hey, you can play with the best of them. You're a great shooter,'" Molina says of what worked. "Just making him believe in himself was the biggest thing."

From looking at his jump shot, it's no wonder why Azurin is confident he can drain shots from anywhere. His jumper is that sweet.

Daniel Azurin

Born: March 9, 1996

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 185 pounds

Sport: Basketball

Year: Senior

Coach: Mike Molina

Favorite food: Lasagna

Favorite movie: "300"

Favorite athletic moment: Sweeping the Battle for the Bell rivalry against Estancia last year.

Week in review: Azurin averaged 17.5 points and 3.5 three-pointers during the Mustangs' road wins against Santiago and La Cañada Flintridge Prep.

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