By JAMES KELLEY
The hard facts are undeniable: a 16-game losing streak, a 5-23 record, a 2-20 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference record and no wins over a college team since Dec. 11.
The Pima Community College men’s basketball team went from seventh place in the country last year, almost national champions, to a team suitable to cut if Pima needs to follow Yavapai College’s route.
However, this won’t be a column saying they lack tiger blood. Pima may have an embarrassing record, but the team should have more asterisks than the MLB record book.
All you need to know about Pima’s men’s basketball season was that on Sophomore Night, they only had two players to honor: Daniel Conorque and Justin Chambers.
Conorque, a big reason why Pima went 3-1 at Nationals last year and the only returning Aztec, was in street clothes and held up by crutches. During the same game, Chambers left with an injury in the second half.
Head coach Roderick Gary, who was hired in late July after the last coach stepped down in early May, was given next to no chance to succeed this season.
He had little time to recruit. Then, potential sophomores from last year’s Regional champion team abandoned the sinking ship like rats off the Titanic.
The Aztecs still found some very impressive players, like Chambers, but few were able to stay academically eligible.
Pima lost many games on the court, but probably fared worse in the classroom.
In the preseason, the Aztecs started with 21 on the roster. The number fell to 10 before the first game. Among those lost were three starters, all the big men.
When Pima’s record was 2-6, freshman guard DeVante Harkin said, “With guys being gone because of eligibility, it’s like the Celtics without their Big Four.”
The Aztecs expected to get those three back when the spring semester started. Instead they were rocked by losing six more players to grades. On top of that, Conorque was lost for the season due to injury.
Yes, it is embarrassing to have any players ineligible for junior college basketball, much less a whole team’s worth. But you can hardly blame a new part-time coach who was hired late.
Gary didn’t have time to scout the players’ transcripts and talk to instructors about their classroom game. He was scrambling just to field a team, and 5-23 is better than 28 forfeits.
PCC finished the season with nine players on the roster. None stood taller than 6 feet 6 inches.
This season was rough, but Gary has shown he can find talent. Now, they just have to make the grade.
Follow us on Twitter for sports news and scores