FOR THE LOVE
OF THE GAME
REEDLEY COLLEGE STYLE
by Brian Fonseca
images by Frankie Leal
When most people picture the life of a college basketball player, typically they visualize a life of excitement, large crowds, alumni clad in school colors, face-painted student bodies, and of course bands and cheerleaders. “Old Schoolers” might watch the evening news or read the morning paper while “New Schoolers” look for a highlight or game aired on ESPN, a clip on You Tube or perhaps even an update on Twitter or Face Book. At universities like North Carolina, Kansas, Duke or Kentucky this is indeed a reality. However, for the life of a Community College Student Athlete, like the members of the Reedley College Men’s Basketball Team, this is not the case. College basketball may provide its share of thrills, but most of the time, and I do mean MOST of the time, it is more about the “Frills” and the love of being a student-athlete.
For the most part, what Community College athletes can look forward to are long bus rides, study sessions, early classes, night classes, late practices, sparse crowds, weight lifting, part-time jobs, sore body parts, working basketball camps, and of course long-winded instructors and nagging know-it-all coaches (I certainly have all the correct answers; just ask my wife).
Reedley College athletes consume a significant share of their meals at McDonalds and the college dining hall. Despite what some may think, there is no daily meal table with endless amounts of tri-tip, pasta, and a desert bar. No, no, no! In fact, often time the spoils of victory for the Reedley College Tigers are double burgers and milkshakes! (Although, our guys love to eat at the Quick Fire Grill too!) A common misconception is that community college athletes receive scholarships. Simply stated, there are NO athletic scholarships for California Community College athletes. In other states scattered throughout the US, athletic scholarships do exist; but not in California.
What an observer will find in community college gyms throughout California are young men participating in an exciting game they truly love. Most of these young men are between the ages of 18-21, some slightly older. Many have dreams of playing at a four year university. Some have hopes of playing professionally. One former Tiger, Cliff Hodge, plays professionally in the Philippines for the Meralco Bolts. Another Tiger graduate, Marquel Hoskins, is a member of the San Francisco Rumble of the ABA—the American Basketball Association. This level of competition “is a making or breaking point of a guy’s career,” noted Reedley High alum, Brett Parichan. Many players will go on to be coaches themselves, like former Tiger James Stevens, who is now the Head Girls Varsity Coach at Immanuel. Others just want to play as a long as the gym is open!
These guys leave it all out on the court; blood, sweat, tears and emotions. “Frustration to Elation” is what you typically see on the court. Games are a fascinating mix of the human body and human spirit, filled with all the trials and tribulations of competition; and an occasional expletive. As one of my colleagues often says, “Sports are the original reality television.” Come to a community college basketball game and you may see something you just haven’t seen before. The games can be wild and essentially no lead is safe. “There is not one guy on the other team you can take for granted,” added Parichan. During the 2008-2009 season, the Tigers were involved in a game that lasted four overtimes; more than three hours total! On that night, the packed house definitely got their money’s worth.
Reedley College does possess its share of followers and fanatics. Just attend almost any Reedley College sporting event and you will likely hear, and see, the youth-full spark of Tiger Faithfull, Voola Sasaki. Go to any Tiger home basketball game and you are sure to find instructor Dr. Bernard (BJ) Marquez and his wife Carol rooting the Tigers on. Dr. Marquez has even been known to pop in on practice frequently, to provide a little support and “consulting.” Athletic Director and Counselor Javier Renteria, a former Fresno State third basemen, is a huge supporter of Reedley College students’ interests and welfare.
Supporters abound everywhere on the college campus. Perhaps none are more helpful than the Head of the Tutorial Center, Ken Zech and Learning Specialist Linda Reither (to whom I would STRONLGY encourage all RC students to get to know and utilize!) The Reedley Exponent covers all the games. Statistician and announcer Paul Mitchell has spent more than half a century working with the Tigers. Mitchell points out that this season it appears “any team with their ‘A’ game can beat anybody on a given night.” I have witnessed more than a fair share of “Reedlians” beam with pride when the Tigers have knocked off rivals Fresno City or College of the Sequoias.
The Tigers do have some “celebrity” moments in the public eye. During October, a group of Reedley College basketball players visited Roosevelt School in Dinuba to speak about the dangers of drugs. The Reedley Kiwanis (also a generous supporter) have hosted team members for their regular meetings. These public appearances provide our student athletes with real life public speaking opportunities and the valuable experiences of interacting with people from our community. Members of the Tiger Basketball Team have also assisted in setting up tables each September for the Chamber of Commerce’s very popular Taste of the Town.
Years from now when these Warriors of the hard-court have moved on, ideally they can look back on their days in Black and Orange and fondly remember their time as a Reedley College Tiger. Ask them why they played however, and I am certain in some way, shape or form, they will merely respond with the same response Parichan spoke of, “for the love of the game.”