Recent Port Isabel graduate Cole Pinkerton was the definition of a student-athlete during his career with the Tarpons.
The four-year basketball letterman was ranked No. 3 in the 2021 class that graduated May 28. He was a two-time captain for the Tarpons basketball team and led them to new heights this season.
On Thursday, Pinkerton capped the long list of accomplishments he accumulated at Port Isabel by signing to continue his basketball career with Our Lady of the Lake University. He will be playing for Saints coach Chris Dial in the Red River Athletic Conference at the NAIA level.
“It was awesome. I wasn’t really sure if I was going to play college basketball, and then to have a signing day and have everyone come out was really nice and exciting to know I have support from everyone,” Pinkerton said.
Pinkerton got on OLLU’s radar while playing with his AAU team, Brownsville Outlaws, only about two months ago. He was noticed while playing in a tournament in San Antonio, and after a few conversations and another scouting trip, Pinkerton was given the offer.
“Sometimes I have a little bit of doubt, but it just shows that what I’m doing is working and I’m doing it right. He told me a lot of the little things he was noticing. I was really happy to hear that, especially from a college coach,” Pinkerton said.
Pinkerton helped the Tarpons rewrite the program record books every year of his career and elevate the program. As a freshman, he was part of Port Isabel’s first team to reach the regional quarterfinals. The following year, the Tarpons set a new wins record, which was reset when Pinkerton was a junior.
Senior year, Pinkerton led Port Isabel to its first district title in 31 years and the Sweet 16 for the first time in history. His efforts racked up individual accolades. Pinkerton was named the District 32-4A co-most valuable player and recognized by the Rio Grande Valley Basketball Coaches Association on the All-Valley boys sub-5A first team and defensive team. Additionally, Pinkerton was named to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches all-Region IV team and was an academic all-state honoree.
“Basketball in P.I. really changed from my freshman year,” Pinkerton said. “You could tell from freshman to junior year as the gyms got packed to the point where there were people waiting outside to get into our games. It was really awesome to see the sport grow.”
Pinkerton thanked Tarpons coach Mike Hazelton and staff, and a number of “behind the scenes” coaches and trainers — Raymond Rodela, Jimmy Gutierrez and Polo Sanchez, to name a few — for aiding his development as a player.
But his family deserves special recognition for making Pinkerton the well-rounded person he is today. He said his parents offered endless support when it came to basketball and academics, and he credited a classic sibling rivalry for pushing him to focus on his studies. Pinkerton will be studying biology with a pre-dental focus at OLLU.
“I was really happy that I played all four years with Coach Hazelton. Him and all my other coaches that not everyone sees that I work with away from school helped me extremely,” Pinkerton said. “My dad was my first coach, he’s been coaching me since I was little. My dad was a huge help. My parents, especially my mom, always pushed academics. Grades always came first. … My older brother was extremely smart, and I always had to try and top him, so I think that really had a big impact.”