Raja Moreno-Ross keeps surprising herself.
Surprised that she’s playing basketball.
Surprised that she’s doing it at Pima.
Surprised that, soon enough, she’ll commit to a university, potentially Division I, to keep doing so.
Last week, on a drive to Kartchner Caverns in Sierra Vista, Moreno-Ross’ coach at Pima, Todd Holthaus, broke the news that she was an NJCAA first-team All-American.
“It was completely unexpected,” she said. “It made me look back at everything I’ve gone through, and how far I’ve come just with the sport of basketball.”
Moreno-Ross, initially a soccer player, didn’t even play basketball competitively until her junior year at Tucson High.
When she was on a visit to Pima, Moreno-Ross said she told Holthaus that she didn’t know much about basketball.
That there are things that she’s uncomfortable with.
But if you teach me, she told Holthaus, then I’ll go out and do it.
Seems like she wasn’t kidding.
Moreno-Ross was a role player as a freshman. She saw her teammate, A’jha Edwards, lead the Aztecs with 13.7 points a game and 14.0 rebounds.
Edwards was an All-American, too, and now she’s playing for Montana State University-Northern of the NAIA.
“She wasn’t that skilled of a player, the same way I started out,” Moreno-Ross said. “That just goes to show how good of a coach Todd is. We’re already naturally athletic. We have the ability. It was just a matter of him showing us what to do and us taking that and working on it, practicing and just knowing that we can be great.”
Moreno-Ross jumped from 7.3 points and 7.6 rebounds last season, to 13.2 points and 9.2 rebounds this season.
As a team, the Aztecs went from 17-15 to 20-12.
And Moreno-Ross said she hopes to decide her college future by the weekend. She’s considering Hawaii, California Baptist and Long Beach State.
“She (Moreno-Ross) gets better every single day and every single game because she becomes more confident in what she’s capable of doing,” Holthaus said during the season.
After Pima’s last game, a loss to Mesa CC in the Region I, Division II championship, Holthaus spoke with Moreno-Ross, and recalled that first meeting they had on that visit to Pima’s campus.
“He said ‘I remember that visit,’” she recalled. “‘I remember you telling me that, and you did exactly what you said you would. You listened, you took everything in I told you and went out there and applied it and here you are.’
“I came from starting playing my junior year and not even knowing what a short corner was on the court,” she added, “to being an All-American today. So, it makes for a good story.”
- Holthaus introduced his nine-member freshmen class for next season last week, and it includes three Tucsonans —
- Katie Bell
- Shalise Fernander
- (Flowing Wells) and
- Hailey Jones
- (Canyon del Oro).
“On paper, I think it may be our best recruiting class in my seven years,” Holthaus said.
- The baseball team swept the weekly ACCAC awards this week, as first baseman
- Kellen Marruffo
- (Sabino) and pitcher
- Marcel Renteria
- (Nogales) were named player and pitcher of the week, respectively. The Aztecs went 2-2 last week, and Marruffo went 7 of 14 with three home runs, seven RBIs and six runs scored. Renteria pitched 7ª innings against Central Arizona College on Tuesday, giving up an unearned run on two hits with seven strikeouts. He is 5-2 on the season.
- The softball team went 1-3 against Paradise Valley CC and Phoenix College, the lone victory a 9-1 win on Saturday against Paradise Valley.
- Thursday, the men’s tennis team beat Glendale CC 7-2, while the women beat Glendale 9-0.
- The women golfers had their sixth straight second-place finish, behind Mesa CC at the Toka Sticks Golf Club in Mesa last week. The Aztecs will play in one more regular season tournament before the NJ
- CAA Tournament.