Three former Bulldogs land spot on Apache rosterBy Bruce Whetten
There is a local connection on the Cochise College Apache basketball roster this year as three former Douglas Bulldogs have secured spots on the team.
Abner Cortez, who played for Douglas High School before graduating in 2010, red shirted last year for Cochise, is back this year looking to take what he learned last year and applying it to this year.
Joining him will be Jessie Arias Sanchez and Alexio Esquer, both of whom played for DHS last year.
The Apaches are looking to win their fourth championship in four years.
Cochise College Coach Jerry Carrillo said he must replace all five starters, three of which signed with division one schools.
Cochise has several newcomers this season to help them claim another championship. Transfers Tim Jacobs and Terin Caldwell bring some four-year experience to help bolster the Runnin’ Apache attack. Jacobs, a 6’2” guard from Onate High in Las Cruces, N.M., was a redshirt at UTEP last season and earned valuable practice experience with the NCAA Division I Conference USA member. Jacobs lead Onate to the 2011 New Mexico High School State 5A Championship his senior year.
Caldwell is a 6’3” athletic jumping jack who averaged seven points per game last season for Northern New Mexico College, an NAIA institution. Caldwell was the El Paso High School Player of the Year for the 2011-12 season while prepping at Americas High School.
The Runnin’ Apaches also brought in two dynamic and mobile post players in 6’6” Demeco Blue and 6’7” Kendyl Grover. Blue is a rugged post player who had a standout career for Tascosa High School in Amarillo, Texas. Grover is long and explosive, and played for legendary high school coach Joe Ortiz at Thunder Ridge High in the greater Denver area.
Cochise again recruited the Pacific Northwest by signing two Seattle area prep legends in point guard Jordan Russell and swingman Anddrew Hawkins. Russell is a powerful 5’10” point guard who was an all-state performer in both football and basketball for Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash. Hawkins is a gifted 6’5” athlete who played for the Franklin Quakers, a perennial Seattle powerhouse that has produced a number of NCAA Division I players, as well as NBA products. The Runnin’ Apaches also found an athletic gem in 6’ Demitrius Balark from Kellis High School in the Phoenix area.
Cochise also brought in 6’5” forward Ramo Adun, to round out the Runnin’ Apache roster and provide depth.
Cochise will again look to play an exciting, up-tempo brand of college basketball after leading the NJCAA in scoring last season. The ACCAC race looks wide open this season.
“We’ve embraced Douglas and wanted Douglas kids to come try out and Abner stuck with it,” he said. “Abner red shirted last year and really improved his skills.”
Carrillo recruited Arias Sanchez and the coach said he would often come work out with the Apaches during the off season.
“Alexio just tried out and didn’t quit,” the coach said. “They made the team and this is a great situation for them. … It’s a credit to all three of them as to how hard they worked to make the team and we’re really proud of them.”
Cortez said he’s grateful for the opportunity Carrillo has given him and he’s looking to make the best of it.
“From the beginning I knew I had to work twice as hard,” he said.
Cortez advised his two former DHS teammates about how much hard work it takes to be a part of this team.
“You have to really be willing to push yourself,” he said.
Arias who has played in both the local as well as the leagues in Mexico knows how though the ACCAC when it comes to basketball.
“Everybody here knows how to play which is good for me because I’m learning how to play more,” he said. “I just want to help this team win games and hopefully get some playing time.”
Esquer said he has thoroughly enjoyed this experience so far and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win.
“Any little thing I can do to make the team better, I’m willing to do,” he said.
The Apaches kick off their season this week with a tournament in Hobbs, N.M. followed by another tournament Nov. 9-10 in Tucson.
Cochise’s home opener will be Nov. 15 with a home game against Phoenix College followed by another home game Nov. 17 against Chandler-Gilbert.
Tip off for the Apache games are 7:30. There is no admission charge.