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James happy to put team on his back

James happy to put team on his back

By CASEY MUSE JR. 

Sophomore big man Deion James has sparked the Pima Community College men’s basketball program this season with both his play on the court and his swagger off it.

No, not his “swag.” Swagger in the sense that James keeps things professional while remaining approachable and light-hearted.

The kid carries himself in a way that is unique but respectful. His personality and demeanor reflect those who raised him.

“My dad has been my biggest influence,” James said. “He has always been a coach on the sideline and throughout life. He has helped me a lot, not only in the game of basketball but in life as well.”

James developed an ealry love for basketball.

Sophomore Deion James pushes past an opponent on his way to a layup.
Photo courtesy of PCC Athletics.

“I got my first basketball for Christmas when I was like 3 years old,” he said. “I carried it with me everywhere.”

A year later, James played his first competitive game. “At the age of 4, my dad put me in my first YMCA league,” he said. “I was a goofy kid who was just running around trying to play defense and steal the ball the whole time.”

James grew up in Vail and received his first opportunity to be a student-athlete at Rincon-Vista Middle School. “My middle school years really served as a transition into my high school years,” he said.

“My middle school coach ended up being my high school coach. I also knew a majority of my teammates from playing with them in middle school.”

The seamless transition helped James make the varsity team his freshman year at Empire High School.

“I actually played a good amount of time my freshman year,” he said. “I think I even started a couple games.” James became the face of the basketball program at Empire, which enjoyed a good reputation for academics and technology but had never really been known for its athletics.

“It was exciting for me to say that I helped a team and school achieve so many goals like that,” he said. “During my time there, the students were a lot more involved. The environment and energy were always great.”

James also helped Empire establish a respectful but heated cross-town rivalry with Cienega High School.

“All of us have bought into

what coach says, and that’s what

makes … us a family.”  Teammate Jacob Anastasi

“All of the Vail kids grew up together,” he said. “We were the little brother of Vail and Cienega was the big brother. They had been there before and established their athletics programs while we were still new to being so relevant.”

The rivalry culminated during his senior year. “The two games we played against them were probably the two biggest basketball games ever played in Vail,” he said. “It was really great for the community.”

By graduation, James had become one of Tucson’s most sought-after Class of 2015 prospects. He commited to play basketball at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“That was a good experience overall,” he said. “No complaints.”

However, James left North Carolina A&T after his freshman season. “I just knew that to be the player I wanted to be, I had a better chance somewhere else,” he said.

PCC head coach Brian Peabody recruited James right away, and James accepted Peabody’s offer.

“I had a few options at that time but I really felt like he could help me the most and our team here had the best opportunity to win,” James said. “It was also great to come back home and be so close to my family again,” he said. “Everyone on the team was really cool and inviting to me as well.”

Teammate Jacob Anastasi called James a great player. “It’s nice having him out there because you know that he’s going to go grab 10 rebounds,” Anastasi said. “All of us have bought into what coach says and that’s what makes a program, that’s what makes us a family.”

James has proven to be an absolute monster at the community college level. He took on a leadership role early, and has averaged 20.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He also has a knack for picking up double-doubles, posting a team-high 17 double-doubles.

“It just comes to me,” he said. “It helps me to get into the flow of the game when I am active, crashing the glass and getting put-backs.”

Lethal offense gets Pima back on track

Lethal offense gets Pima back on track

By CASEY MUSE JR

The Pima Community College men’s basketball team rode a six-game winning streak during winter break.

The team suffered its first loss during a road contest with Cochise College on Jan. 7, and then dropped three straight games from there. The Aztecs’ second-half performances were their downfall.

With school back in session, the team looked to get back on track and find a way to play a complete game.

Jan. 14: PCC 97, Central Arizona College 103

 PCC dropped it third straight game against Central Arizona College on the road.

The Aztecs were in control in the first half, leading by as much as 11. They took a 46-41 lead into halftime but could not maintain their good performance in the second half. Pima was outscored 62-51 and lost the game 103-97.

Sophomore Zach Evans led the team with 27 points and freshman Isaiah Murphy scored 15 points.

“It is important for us to get our guys playing well and for them to see the ball go through the hoop,” Evans said after the game. “Hopefully we can bring more energy the next game and to the rest of the season.”

Jan. 18: PCC 115, Mesa CC 78

 The Aztecs got back to winning in a home conference game against Mesa Community College. Pima dominated the entire game, and never trailed.

Sophomore Emilio Acedo made eight 3-pointers to score a team-high 26 points. Fellow sophomore Jacob Anastasi added 23 points.

Sophomore Deion James had his 10th double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Evans also had a double-double, with 12 points and 11 assists.

“This was a really important win for us getting back on track,” Evans said. “Deion had a huge game tonight.”

Jan. 21: PCC 97, Arizona Western College 101

 Pima made it close at the end but was not able to overcome a double-digit deficit against Arizona Western College in Yuma.

The Aztecs were down 94-80 with 1:46 left in the game, and then Acedo began making threes. Pima cut the lead to 4 points with 7.8 seconds left but the Matadors made their free throws and sealed the game.

Acedo finished with 22 points and six rebounds. Anastasi scored 22 points and James added another double-double to his resume with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Jan. 25: PCC 96, Tohono O’odham CC 91

 Pima returned to winning ways in a road game against Tohono O’odham. It was a satisfying piece of revenge for the Aztecs, who fell to Tohono O’odham 85-82 at home in November.

The game was close throughout, and Pima found itself trailing at the half. PCC used a strong second half to close things out, outscoring the Jegos 54-43 in the period.

James led the way with 16 points. Freshman Alize Travis was huge off the bench with 13 points on 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range as well as 4-for-4 shooting from the free throw line.

Jan. 28: PCC 98, Chandler-Gilbert CC 87

 The Aztecs won their second game in a row at home against Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Pima was in control throughout the game and led by as many as 17 points in the second half.

James earned his 12th double-double of the season, finishing with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Anastasi added 24 points and seven rebounds.

“We have a very talented and unselfish team that’s willing to make the extra pass,” Anastasi said. “It’s about taking what the defense gives you. We trust each other and we all have our roles and know them and that’s vital to the team’s success.”

Murphy was the leading scorer off of the bench with 23 points. Acedo rounded out the double-digit scoring with 11 points.

Feb. 1: PCC 87 Glendale 94

 The Aztecs dropped a conference game on the road against Glendale Community College.

Pima played a good first half and took a 49-45 lead into the break.

Unfortunately, the team dealt with foul trouble during the second half as sophomore Deion James resisted picking up his fifth and final foul during the final stretch. James was still able to score a team high 25 points despite being on the verge of disqualification. Freshman Isaiah Murphy contributed 16 points and sophomore Damon Dubots added 15 of his own.

The result meant a season split with the Gauchos, PCC took a previous meeting at home 108-96 in December.

Casey Muse jr./Aztec Press Freshman Guard Isaiah Murphy goes up strong during the Dec. 7 matchup with Eastern.

 

 

 

ON DECK

Feb 4: at Eastern Arizona College, Thatcher, 7:30 p.m.

Feb 8: South Mountain CC, West Campus, 7:30 p.m.

Feb 11: at Scottsdale CC, 5 p.m.

Feb 15: Cochise College, West Campus, 7:30 p.m.