Rolando Garcia will be the first to tell you community college sports are for the kids.
even he admits that his Columbia Basin College men’s basketball team’s
1-23 record last season was pretty hard to go through.
for a guy who was used to winning — playing basketball himself at
Grandview High School, Columbia Basin College and Northwest Nazarene
University — it wasn’t easy.
So now that the Hawks are 16-10 and
qualified for the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges
basketball tournament, which begins Saturday at Toyota Center, Garcia is
seeing the sunny side of life.
“More than you know,” Garcia said.
“I really can’t even put it into words. Just like I told my boys, it’s
never been about me. I was fortunate to play with some excellent
And now his kids are getting to experience success. He knows when that Ah Ha! moment happened, too.
we were down 23 points at Big Bend in the first half back in January,”
Garcia said. “We came back and won by two. All along they’ve carried
themselves as if they belonged. I think that game alone, they started
Last season, Garcia at one point was down to just six
players, thanks to injuries and players who didn’t make grades. He had
to scour the campus looking for athletic bodies.
This year, he’s had some good talent.
funny thing about it is, all season long coaches come up to me and said
stuff like ‘My two best players are out,’ ” Garcia said. “Really? I
tease them, ‘You guys were running up the score on me last season. Don’t
be coming to talk to me about your problems.”
Garcia has also gotten a couple of players back from two seasons ago in Chiawana High graduates Buddy Walters and Justin Smith.
They didn’t play last season for personal reasons, but wanted to come back this season.
And they brought some friends with them.
grateful for Buddy and Justin that they decided to come back,” Garcia
said. “These gentlemen showed an interest in coming to play for me.
They’re all good friends and they know each other.”
Smith said he knew the Hawks could play this season.
we realized the team we had coming, with (Andrew) Reddout and (Mitch)
Zapien, along with (James) Lopez,” Smith said. “Plus me, Buddy and Kyler
(DeWitt) being sophomores we knew we’d be a good fit. We’ve played with
or against each other a lot.”
It shows at times on the court, as the team tends to make that extra pass for the easy layup and short jumper.
I like best about this group of guys is no one cares who gets the
credit,” Walter said. “We all enjoy just winning, having fun and playing
basketball. Each teammate wants the other to excel. We believe in each
Even when the Hawks went into a four-game losing skid late
in the season as they tried to clinch a tournament berth. Only when
they beat Walla Walla 103-90 last Saturday to end the regular season did
they snap it.
“We really just got a little complacent,” Smith
said. “We were in first place for a little while. We stopped having fun
and turned it more into a job than it should be. We lost a couple close
ones too, and we’ve also won a couple close ones, so we’re experienced
and ready for any type of game.”
As long as they believe in themselves, things should work out.
“I think the biggest thing they’ve had all year, is their motto was ‘Why not us?’ and ‘We belong,’ ”Garcia said.
The Hawks definitely do. It’s been a great turnaround for the CBC men’s program.
And the Hawks reward will be getting to play in front of the hometown crowd, hopefully for a title.
“It should be exciting to play in front of our hometown crowd,” Walters said.
“It’s going to be something I’ll never forget,” Smith added.
And what advice does Garcia give the guys about this weekend?
“Right now, everybody’s record is 0-0,” he said. “We’re playing the
best of best in this league. Expect to play through calls, expect to
play through emotions. Play together, and play like we believe can win.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for the Hawks.
Published with permission of the Tri-City Herald. Additional news stories can be accessed online at the Tri-City Herald.
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