I have been following high school basketball in Arizona since 2013. One of the programs who are competitive year in and year out are the Chargers of Cholla Magnet High School in Tucson, AZ. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Athletic Director and Boys Head Basketball Coach Masai Dean. He has built a good program in South Tucson.
Here is our Q&A:
Q: How long have you been coaching?
A: I have been coaching for roughly (20) years. I have coached at Cholla for (13) years, (3) as the freshman coach, and the last (10) years as the varsity coach.
Q: Which schools or programs?
A: Cholla is the only school that I have coached high school basketball. I have coached club basketball for the Tucson Spartans and the Tucson Roadrunners.
Q: Why do you coach?
A: I coach because I love the competition and I love teaching the game of basketball. I really enjoy the coaches that I work with and I enjoy representing the school along with the students.
Q: What are your expectations for this season?
A: I expect that we will be a competitive team. We make the playoffs regularly, so that is always the expectation as a program. We lost players to transfer and graduation so most of the guys playing this year will be first-time guys. There is a learning curve going from lower levels to varsity for most kids, so that will definitely play a part in this season for us.
Q: Who are your key players to watch this season?
Our key players this year have been senior center Ruben Cazares (19 pg, 12 reb pg) and sophomore Masai Dean Jr. (15.5 pg, 5 ast pg). Both guys played minutes on varsity last season, so their experience will be key for us. Diego Reyes and Jacob Pindeo are also key contributors.
Q: What were the keys into keeping your program competitive year in and year out?
A: One of the keys to keeping our program competitive year in and year out is being fortunate to have motivated kids come to Cholla. When I say motivated, I mean to get better at basketball and to succeed academically. We have not had any academic issues, and that helps set the tone for the students that are coming into the program year in and year out.
Q: What challenges did you face leading into this season due to the pandemic?
A: Covid-19 has been a particularly challenging situation for our school athletically, to say the least. We have had low numbers in all sports since the pandemic began. Our community has been impacted greatly by Covid-19, as it has touched all involved, from students to teachers and administration. This season we were forced to shut down our Freshman and JV basketball programs, which is the first time that we have not had all (3) levels. As the pandemic subsides however, I expect that our kids will come back out and we will have (3) levels again, next School Year.
Coach Dean is doing a great job keeping the program afloat, since the pandemic has negatively impacted their program. He has been committed to the community of Cholla for over a decade. He also has a nice young core coming back next season, so I expect the Chargers to make a lot of noise next year. I’d like to thank Coach Dean for his dedication to the South Tucson Community.