That’s the amount of playing experience Brian Peabody has in his lineup returning from last year’s Pima College team that finished 19-13.
The Aztecs’ season, delayed five months because of COVID-19, will tip off today at home against Eastern Arizona. The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.. No fans are allowed because of COVID-19 protocol. It will be streamed live via PimaAztecs.com.
“First time for me (void of returning players with minutes played for the Aztecs),” said Peabody, who has more than 30 years of head coaching experience and is starting his ninth at Pima. “Usually, we’ve been really good with redshirts. I think that’s how we’ve gotten to be good. We got beaten in the national championship game (in 2017-18) when we started three redshirt sophomores.
“I think that extra year gives you a huge advantage. So yeah, this is a new one for me.”
On top of the lack of experience under Peabody, Pima’s team this season has undergone limited practice time because of COVID-19 restrictions. The Aztecs first worked out together only three weeks ago and were not permitted to have regular practices until last week.
“Usually, I’ve got to get four scrimmage dates, and then eight non-league games and the 22-game league schedule,” Peabody said. “This is different. We’re going right into league play without having played any scrimmages or any other games. This is really like starting over for us.”
Peabody does have two returners from last season who redshirted, both of whom are projected starters:
— Daniel Moody, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward from Walden Grove.
— Marcel Dean, a 5-10 sophomore guard from Cholla.
Moody and Dean played their freshman seasons in 2018-19 at Tohono O’odham Community College, which dropped its basketball team last season. They bided their time at Pima last year to get their careers going again.
Dean, son of Cholla coach Masai Dean, led Tohono O’odham with 13.1 points and 4.5 assists in 2018-19. As the Chargers’ catalyst in his four-year varsity career there, he led Cholla to an 81-24 overall record and scored 1,314 points.
“I’m looking for them to lead us because they’ve been in the league (Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) and have an idea of what to expect,” Peabody said. “I am looking to rely on those guys a lot.”
Jalen Johnson, a 6-8 freshman forward from Scottsdale Bella Vista Prep, by way of Chicago, is another projected starter, Peabody said. He averaged 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists at Bella Vista last season.
“He has a huge upside and the chance to develop into a really good player,” Peabody said. “He plays above the rim and is a good shot blocker.”
Another player of note is freshman playmaking point guard Pierce Sterling, 6-2 and 190 pounds, from Veritas Prep in Phoenix. As a senior at Indio (Calif.) Notre Dame High School two years ago, he averaged 10.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
Sterling and Dean makes for a promising backcourt for Peabody.
“Sterling, if he’s not the best passer that I’ve ever had, he’s up in the top five,” Peabody said. “People love playing with him. If they do their job and run the floor, like we normally do, he’ll find you. He is really unselfish.
“It’s hard to get a pass-first point guard these days, but he’s that guy. He’ll pass it. Just run and he’ll find you.”
Because of COVID-19 forcing the Maricopa County Community Colleges to cancel their indoor winter sports, the Pima’s men’s and women’s programs will play 16 games as part of the NJCAA Region Division I this season. Their 16-game schedule includes four games each against perennial Division I schools Cochise, Central Arizona, Arizona Western and Eastern Arizona.
The Aztecs normally compete at the Division II level because of enrollment but opponents such as Mesa, Chandler-Gilbert, Glendale and Scottsdale are not playing this season.
“I’m excited. I mean, you’re playing 16 Division I programs, so we are obviously playing up a level,” Peabody said. “We’ve always had that mentality of we’ll play anybody anywhere, anytime. So here you go.
“And again, when we were really good a couple years ago and got beat in the championship game at nationals, we were 13-1 against Division I schools. So we competed. I think it just gives you a really good indication of, ‘Hey, are we good? Here you go.'”
Pima’s 2020-21 Roster
|1||Jalen Johnson||F||Fr.||6-7||195||Chicago, IL / Glendale (AZ)|
|2||Chris Lee||G||Fr.||6-1||175||Ketchikan, AK / Ketchikan|
|3||Khalid Whitaker||G||Fr.||6-1||185||Flowing Wells|
|5||Daniel Moody||G/F||Soph.||6-7||190||Walden Grove|
|10||Dylan Sullivan||F||Fr.||6-5||195||Walla Walla, WA / Walla Walla|
|11||Pierce Sterling||G||Fr.||6-2||190||Indio, CA / Notre Dame|
|12||Damon McDowell Jr.||G||Fr.||6-3||175||North Las Vegas, NV / Mojave|
|13||Cooper Burbank||G||Fr.||6-3||175||Rock Point, AZ / Chinle|
|14||Beau Daggett||G||Fr.||6-2||185||Spanish Fork, UT / Spanish Fork|
|21||Kurt Wood||G||Soph.||6-3||180||Snowflake, AZ / Snowflake|
|22||Jose Maldonado||F||Fr.||6-5||160||St. Augustine Catholic|
|23||Isaiah Grant||F||Fr.||6-7||210||Anchorage, AK / Dimond|
|24||Quinn A’ta’zhoon||G||Fr.||6-5||170||Gallup, NM / Gallup|
|25||Joe Heath||G||Fr.||6-3||190||Bullhead City, AZ / Mohave|
|41||Kolton McMillan||C||Fr.||6-9||270||Spanish Fork, UT / Spanish Fork|
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.