Last year the 2018-2019 Cochise College Apaches won all of their Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) games in 2019 en route to running away with the ACCAC title with a 20-2 conference record. The Runnin’ Apaches finished the season with a 26-5 overall record and ranked 17th in the final National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I poll. Unfortunately, the Apaches came up short in the NJCAA Region Tournament, losing a double OT thriller to Eastern Arizona College.
The success of the program continues to move student-athletes to NCAA four year institutions. Cochise had four of their five starters sign with NCAA DI schools while a fifth starter signed with the NCAA DII National Runners Up. The Apaches saw ACCAC Player of the Year and NJCAA All American Chris Whitaker sign with Portland State University out of the Big Sky. A pair of NJCAA Region I All-Stars Mahki Morris and Jamuare Gregg signed with Abilene Christian University and Northwestern State University respectively, both of the Southland Conference. Big man Justus Rainwater signed with NCAA DI “Dunk City” program Florida Gulf Coast University. All ACCAC point guard Darnell Rabateau signed with NCAA DII powerhouse Point Loma Nazarene.
Lastly, local Cochise County resident Trai Powell from Buena High School moved on to Dean College in Massachusetts.
Furthermore, Cochise finished the academic year with a 3.08 Team GPA, garnering another NJCAA Academic Team of the Year award. Justus Rainwater was an NJCAA All-Academic Team first team recipient.
Cochise returns several key members from last season’s ACCAC Champions. Forward Naje Smith, a 6’7 forward returns after a stellar freshman year. Smith can score the ball in a variety of ways and is a tremendous passer. Sophomore big man Milan Szabo returns after backing up Rainwater and Gregg last season. Szabo is a 6’10 rim runner with great athleticism and a high motor. The Apaches also return guards Anthony Saunders and Aaron Garcia from last year’s championship team.
Cochise will look to some talented transfers and freshmen to bolster the attack this season. Point guard Damon Wall from NJCAA Runner-Up Ranger College comes in hope to provide leadership, experience, and solid skills to run the Apaches high powered offense. The Apaches also look to combo guard Arion Lewis from Scotland Prep in Pennsylvania. Lewis is a 6’2 guard who had a great prep career at Valley Forge Military in Philadelphia, PA. The Apaches also added another wing from the Philadelphia, PA area in Donte DuPriest. DuPriest is a strong and powerful guard from Bartram High School in Philadelphia. Additionally, Cochise was able to land all-state forward Kyle Moore from Jonesboro High School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Moore and Red-Shirt freshman Jamaal Coleman look to add depth to the interior.
Last season saw veteran Head Coach Jerry Carrillo earn another ACCAC Coach of the Year honor. This year, Coach Carrillo was named to the ACCAC Hall of Fame along with Cochise Head Baseball Coach Todd Inglehart. This is a special year for Coach Carrillo. Not only does he begin his 25th year at the helm of The Runnin’ Apaches, but it also marks the return of former Cochise Assistant Jeff Caha back to Camp Cochise. “Having Coach Jeff Caha back on staff rejuvenates our program. Jeff not only loves Cochise Basketball, but also he brings energy and enthusiasm to our team daily. We are fortunate and excited to have him back at Camp Cochise,” Head Coach Jerry Carrillo said.
Please come out and support this year’s men’s basketball team as they look to hang another banner in the Stronghold Gymnasium.