Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: top 10 athletes in Pima College history.
Success in Pima College’s athletic program has never been identified by one sport. The Aztecs have been good at everything, especially soccer, softball, track, tennis, baseball and, in recent years, basketball and golf.
Much of that is because PCC has hired skilled coaches from the beginning, triggered by basketball’s Norm Patton and baseball’s Rich Alday and carried on by latter-day winners such as softball’s Stacy Iveson and soccer’s Kendra Veliz.
But because the PCC athletic experience is two years, tops, it has been difficult to identify a ranking legend or two. Now, almost 50 years since Pima debuted its first sports teams, it’s worth a look back.
One of the better stories of an elite Aztec ballplayer began innocently in Mexico City in 1991 when the late Larry Toledo, PCC’s Hall of Fame athletic director, was on a business trip. While in Mexico, he was told that a 6-foot 11-inch basketball player from Rosario, Sinaloa, hoped to attend an American junior college.
Toledo discovered that Horacio Llamas was friends with Pima sophomore basketball player Francisco Gomez. A few weeks later, Llamas rode a bus from Mexico City to Nogales, where Gomez and Aztecs coach Mike Lopez were waiting at the bus terminal.
Two years later, after he lost some weight and learned English, Llamas scored 52 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against NJCAA powerhouse Arizona Western College. He became an All-ACCAC center, averaging 21.4 points and 9.9 rebounds as a sophomore, bettering his freshman statistics of 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Llamas might not be the best basketball player in Pima history, but he is the only one to make an NBA roster, appearing in 28 games for the Phoenix Suns.
Here’s our list of the Top 10 athletes in Pima College history: