Photo of basketball player

Photo courtesy of Dave Kavanaugh, Las Vegas Optic
D.J. Bustos, number 12 for the West Las Vegas High School Dons, plays in the 2016 state championship game against Hope Christian.

Las Vegas, N.M – All-time leading New Mexico prep basketball scorer D.J. Bustos said he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in a gym. Now he’s poised to make his mark on the basketball court at Highlands University.

The West Las Vegas High School senior standout made it official with Highlands April 12, signing on the dotted line for a full-ride scholarship as a Cowboy including a Scholar Athlete Award.

“Highlands is the best fit for me because I’ll get playing time as a freshman and I’m excited to begin my journey as a Cowboy,” Bustos said. “There are no guarantees of playing immediately at the Division 1 college level. At Highlands, I’ll also also get to play in front of my family and hometown friends. They’ve been supporting me since I played peewee basketball.”

D.J. Bustos, short for David James, said basketball is a way of life for his family.

“When I was born, my dad David Bustos was the men’s varsity basketball coach at West Las Vegas. Basketball was instilled in me from the get-go from my dad and my mom, Mary, who also coached. I wore my first Don’s uniform when I was 4. I’d run out with my dad’s team for warm ups and then sit on the bench and watch the game,” Bustos said.

Bustos first suited up for the West Las Vegas varsity team as an 8th grader, playing for Ernie Rodriguez. Then Bustos played four years for his father, after David Bustos took the reins again as the Don’s varsity coach in the 2013-2014 season.

According to the New Mexico Activity Association, during his prep career Bustos racked up 2,689 points – beating the 2,591 record that stood since 1977.

“We are extremely excited to welcome D.J. Bustos to the Cowboy basketball program,” said Craig Snow, Highlands head basketball coach. “D.J. completed a stellar career at West Las Vegas High School, and we’re fortunate that someone of his caliber grew up locally. As the son of coaches, he possesses a very high basketball IQ and understanding of the game. He’s also an excellent student and a very mature young man.”

Snow said that while it’s obvious Bustos can score, he’s even more impressed with the senior’s unselfish play.

“D.J. is always willing to make the extra pass to his teammates,” Snow said.

Snow said the 6’3” Bustos is a well-rounded guard, his senior year stats driving the point home with 23.4 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and 6.2 assists per game.

“I’m grateful to Coach Snow for believing in me as an athlete and scholar,” said Bustos, who currently holds a 4.1 GPA at West Las Vegas High.

Bustos said when he’s on the court, his focus is 110 percent on the game he loves.

“When I’m playing I’m in a different world, blocking out any stress from school and and sadness from missing my mom, who died when I was 16,” Bustos said.

He said a shoulder injury and major surgery in July before his senior season made playing, let alone breaking a scoring record, a long shot.

“I worked really hard in rehab to get back in the gym. I couldn’t have broken the record without all my teammates, past and present. I’m also very thankful for my dad, who has always been there when I needed him most, pushing me to be the person and player I am today,” Bustos said.

Snow said Bustos joins Deion Bauman of El Paso, Texas, and Desmond Carpenter of Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Cowboy’s 2017 freshmen recruiting class.

Both Bustos and Carpenter’s fathers also played basketball for Highlands.