Height and length could lead CAC men to postseason
By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Oct 30, 2018 Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — With five returning players, led by 7-foot center Trever Irish, the Central Arizona College men's basketball team has a solid base entering the 2018-19 season.
Among the newcomers for the Vaqueros are a pair of 6-8 guards, both of whom will start and/or see significant playing time.
Fifth-year coach Tramaine Aaron is optimistic the long-and-lean look will help CAC achieve big things.
"We have the potential for a really good year," Aaron said. "I've been pleased with our progress."
The Vaqueros start the season Thursday at Odessa, Texas. They will play two more games in the Lone Star state and are scheduled to face New Mexico Junior College on Nov. 12 prior to their Nov. 20 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference opener against Arizona Western.
Irish, who has committed to Long Beach State, averaged 14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 2017-18.
"He's going to be a huge part of our offense and defense. He's going to draw a lot of (on-court) attention," Aaron said.
That's why it's so important that CAC provides Irish with plenty of help.
The tall guards are sophomore transfer Richard Polanco (Eastern Washington) and freshman Meekness Payne. The projected rotation also includes returning guards Andrew Leonard, Cory Deveaux and Quincy Smith along with freshman guard Malachi Faison.
"We have some talent," Aaron said. "I think we have an exciting group. They'll be fun to watch."
Leonard averaged 11.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3 assists last season. Smith led the team in assists (3.9) and steals (1.2) while averaging 8.7 points and 3.4 rebounds. Deveaux averaged 8.9 points, 3 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
CAC's other returner is guard Lonyae Jones (3.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists).
An inability to finish games cost the Vaqueros dearly last year. Halftime leads evaporated on an alarming basis, much to Aaron's annoyance.
"That was partly due to our inexperience (at the junior college level)," he said. "We have to stay the course, maintain and keep our poise."
The Vaqueros went 12-18 overall and 8-14 in the ACCAC in 2017-18. They qualified for the Division I Region 1 tournament as the fourth and final seed, losing to eventual champ Arizona Western (23-10, 16-6) in the opening round.
Cochise (23-9, 15-7) and Mesa (16-14, 14-8) were the other D-I region tournament qualifiers. Eastern Arizona (14-16, 8-14) tied CAC in the conference standings, but missed the postseason under the tiebreaker protocol.
Ascending to the upper echelon of the ACCAC is possible "if we're a better (defensive) team transition-wise," Aaron said. "We have to get rebounds and get stops."
Seven of the ACCAC's 12 teams compete in Division II. Phoenix (24-8, 20-3) and Pima (31-5, 18-4) finished first and second, respectively, in the overall standings. Pima reached the NJCAA title game, falling 89-85 to Triton, Illinois, in the final.
South Mountain (19-12, 12-10) and Chandler-Gilbert (18-13, 11-12) also placed ahead of CAC in the conference standings.
"They won't be pushovers," Aaron said of the D-II teams. "They have to be taken seriously."