Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment of Montezuma Memories, a series of essays recalling great — or painful — moments in Aztecs history. Mostly painful, actually. In today’s episode, AKH correspondent letsdosomewaving remembers a time when a rebuilding basketball season did not include 20 wins. Or even six.
I’ll admit it. I’m not very high on this year’s Aztec hoops team. They return one starter, possess no depth in the post and have more question marks than the transcript of a Mexican national soccer team press conference.
Unless Chase Tapley and James Rahon combine to average 35 points per game, DeShawn Stephens is a beast with fangs, Garrett Green proves to be the next Ryan Amoroso and Tim Shelton’s knees aren’t as fragile as your great aunt’s China, this squad aint going to the Big Dance.
Hell, the NIT is no sure thing at this point. Keeping their streak of 20-win seasons — it’s at six — alive is no slam dunk either. This team is as thin as Steve Urkel on a hunger strike.
Now I could sit here, listen to Shelton’s “Game Time Ready,” and softly weep while reminiscing about last season. Instead I’ll look back at Steve Fisher’s first SDSU club and thank my lucky stars those bleak days are
long behind us.
You want a good laugh? Talk to a 30-something Aztec alum and bring up the “Emerald 8.” I can’t even remember the names of all those stiffs, but they made up the once-heralded freshman class of 1998. Only one, the talented and hard-working Myron Epps — lasted all four years. And a good thing too — these guys combined for nine wins in their first two seasons.
Fred Trenkle, God bless him, was one of hell of a motivator, a terrific man and a solid in-game coach. He just couldn’t recruit for shit. Fisher inherited the Emerald 8 before their sophomore campaign and proceeded to churn out five victories. It should have garnered him Coach of the Year consideration.
I’m only half kidding. Those guys didn’t possess much talent. They might have left one win on the table all year, a horrific triple-overtime home loss against Air Force. I was there. I’ll never forget how pathetic it was.
Fisher knew how bad his inherited dudes were and cleaned house, getting rid of five scholarship players in one day. Freshman point guard Bradley Jackson decided he’d be better suited elsewhere and left as well.
I never saw a full complement of coaches on the sidelines. That’s because Fisher had as many out recruiting as possible. They brought in the nucleus of what would be a great 2001-02 team that reached the NCAA Tournament. Guys like Randy Holcomb, Al Faux, Deandre Moore, Tony
Bland were integral to that breakthrough team.
Perhaps we are in the midst of a similar situation right now, awaiting
the eligibility of Utah transfer J.J. O’Brien, St. John’s transfer Dwayne Polee and highly-touted freshman Matt Shrigley — with two more likely to sign.
But just because this is a rebuilding season doesn’t mean it will be
one step above hell. The last time the Aztecs had to rebuild they added
junior-college transfer Malcolm Thomas, Tapley and a guy named Kawhi
Leonard and danced their way to 25 wins. Will this year be a repeat? Not a
But this will be nothing like Fish’s first club — when the chances of a 20-win season were about as slim has Urkel’s chances of landing a date with Laura Winslow.