After one of the toughest non-conference schedules ever, they are 10-3. Or “only 10-3” as some of the grumblers say. Wins over Utah, BYU, Pitt and a tight game with Arizona, sure, but not quite what people expected. Highly ranked but now sliding. OK, let’s consider the facts…
We lost the two primary keys from last season’s 31-5 Over Achievers – Xavier Thames and Josh Davis. Still, we had the most highly touted recruiting class ever coming in. Four ranked Freshmen. One, Zylan Cheatham, has yet to play a second thanks to injuries, and I believe he will redshirt. Malik Pope, who had not played since his Junior year in high school thanks to injuries, is finally getting some playing time and showing his obvious skills but not yet his best game. The other two have done well — Trey Kell starts at point guard and Kevin Zabo gets good playing time.
Injuries to the newcomers have hurt, but consider the ones that have hit returning regulars, Matt Shrigley took a terrible fall thanks to a flagrant foul and missed several games. Aqeel Quinn broke his hand and had a painful hip pointer. Angelo Chol suffered a knee injury that’s not healed yet. And now Dwayne Polee had that frightening episode in the middle of a game and we don’t know if he will be back at all.
Add all these up and it does pose problems. However, l don’t hear Steve Fisher complaining. He is convinced the players he has are dedicated and will win. The MW may prove to be a tougher challenge than expected, yet I sure am not giving up on our Aztecs.
So, be there to get your New Year’s Eve started in the right way. As Steve always emphasizes, our crowds, headed by The Show, have played a big role in Aztec successes. “We need you at Viejas,” Coach says. Be there Wednesday afternoon at 2:00!
The 2014-15 Aztecs are led by Seniors Aqeel Quinn, JJ O’Brien and Dwayne Polee (photos by Ernie Anderson)