Pima Community College sports

Pima tips off 2022-23 season successfully with In Honor of Indigenous Peoples Game

Pima sophomore guard Aiona Johnson is one of six Native Americans on Pima’s roster in 2022-23 (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

Pima coach Todd Holthaus last season started five Native Americans as part of the program’s first “In Honor of Indigenous Peoples Game” at the West Gym.

He could not do that again at this year’s event on Saturday night, won by Pima 103-44 over SAGU American Indian College.

That’s because the Aztecs now feature six Native Americans — approximately 35 percent of the roster.

They are:

  • Sophomore guard Jaden Leslie (Apache/Hopi) of Mesa Dobson
  • Freshman guard Taina Lee (Navajo/Comanche) of Taylorville (Utah) East
  • Sophomore guard Aiona Johnson (Navajo) of Shiprock (N.M.) Navajo Prep
  • Sophomore forward Matehya Aberle (Navajo) of Holbrook
  • Sophomore guard/forward Torrance Begay (Navajo) of Page
  • Freshman forward Jordan Joe (Navajo) of Gallup (N.M.)

With that many Native American players, chances are an indigenous player will be on the court for Holthaus, who is in his 16th season as Pima’s head coach. He has compiled a career record of 338-163.

Begay had a double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) in Saturday’s victory for Pima, ranked No. 18 among NJCAA Division II programs.

Nogales grad Dominique Acosta, a freshman forward, had eight rebounds and 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. Sophomore guard Priscila Varela added 13 points.

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Two Native Americans on the roster — Joe and Aberle — share bloodlines with former Arizona athletes.

Joe’s mother Elvina Clark was a defensive specialist for David Rubio’s volleyball program from 1998 to 2000.

Aberle’s uncle is Cliff Johns, a walk-on with the Arizona basketball program in 1992-93 after former Lute Olson assistant Jim Rosborough (now Pima women’s assistant) discovered him in a pickup game at the student rec center.

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Holthaus’ staff includes long-term members Rosborough and Pete Fajardo, both in their ninth season with the program.

Rosborough was recently inducted to the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as an Arizona associate head coach from 1989-2007 and his time at Pima.

Felicia “Fee” Greenhouse, formerly the freshman coach at Tucson High, is on the staff following the departure of Tim Larsen (head coach at Eastern Wyoming College) and Nalani Hernandez (private business).

Vanessa Campillo, who played for Holthaus at Flowing Wells before being a standout at UC Riverside, is the new strength and conditioning coach. Carla Garrett, the team’s former strength and conditioning coach, is concentrating her time to Salpointe Catholic athletics.

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Two local players are in their third year of the program — guards Angel Addleman (Palo Verde grad) and Luisayde Chavez (Rio Rico) — granted due to the COVID-19-impacted season of 2020-21.

Addleman was one of the team’s catalysts in its 20-11 season through the first 27 games before suffering a torn ACL injury. She averaged 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.

She has not joined the team yet with full workouts but projects to practice and play in games soon.

Chavez averaged 10.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

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Among the freshmen joining the Holthaus’ team are Amphi grads Mat’tanaya Vital and Knowledge Smith.

Vital’s skills prospered from the early stage of her development while being trained by former Arizona football and basketball player Kelvin Eafon, now an analyst of Wildcat football and basketball games at KCUB 1290-AM.

She also played for Eafon’s club basketball team Lady Desert Storm since she was in the seventh grade. He has trained her for six years and coached her for five.

Vital, a 5-foot-6 guard, tallied 1,484 career points at Amphi.

Amphi graduate Mat’tanaya Vital is one of the top freshmen with the Pima women’s basketball team (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

In her senior season with the Panthers and Smith, Vital averaged 22.3 points, 6.2 assists, 5.2 steals and 4.8 rebounds a game while leading her team to a 20-9 record.

Holthaus on Vital’s signing: “We take a lot of pride in keeping the best local players close to home. Mat’tanaya is a great scorer with a tremendous understanding of the game. She’s tough and plays with an edge. We’re very excited to get to work with her and add her to the exciting roster we’ve got for next year.”

The Aztecs will play in the Eastern Arizona Classic from Nov. 10-12 in Thatcher. They will open play against Eastern Wyoming College on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.


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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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