The Hollywood version of a prep basketball career starts off with the wide-eyed freshman kid testing the waters, hoping to be a part of something and looking to build toward a glorious future. For Reggie Romo of the Canyon Del Oro Dorados, it was more like “Memento,” a tale told in reverse, with the good stuff coming at the beginning, followed by an painful period of setbacks and heartbreak.
Her first two years with the Dorados, the future seemed bright because the present was blindingly so. Coach Kent Senzee had built CDO into a perennial power, guaranteed to have a winning record every year and possessing a lock on a spot in the state tournament.
But after a couple star players graduated, the program took an expected downward turn, which then got caught up in the whirlwind of the worldwide pandemic and went into complete freefall.
“It was so cool my first two years. Everybody knew CDO basketball. We had other teams’ respect. My junior year was tough. We weren’t used to losing like that, but after COVID…” Her voice trailed off.
Everything changed. There were no summer leagues, no off-season training opportunities. Even any contact with the coaches was severely limited to phone conversations and ZOOM meetings. There was no chance to build a team and the results were devastating. The Dorados went 1-9 in their pandemic season, their lone win a two-pointer over lowly Walden Grove.
Through it all, she persevered. “Hey, it could have been worse. At first, the AIA canceled the (winter sports) season, but then they brought it back. At least we got to play.”
During the pandemic lockdown, she focused on her studies. Her favorite class is English and she enjoys writing uplifting stories.
She had also been the catcher on the softball team, but had decided to dedicate herself to basketball. She’ll always remember her senior season, but she’ll also remember what she missed out on.
“The worst part was the lack of a crowd,” she said.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) had strict guidelines as to crowd size for winter sports that included no more than two parents or guardians per player at home games and they left it open to individual school districts to be even stricter (but not more lax) if they wanted to be. The Amphitheater District started the winter season not allowing any fans in the stands, but then relaxed to the AIA’s standards as the season went along.
“Seriously,” she continues, “in other seasons, we could be down six points or 60 points and it didn’t matter. We had the crowd with us and we fed off their energy. But this year was just kinda blah. We’d get behind and there was no energy.”
Basketball has been such a big part of her life for so long, she doesn’t know what she’s going to in the future to fill the void. Right now, she’s working at the Home Depot by Costco and thinking about pursuing a career in real estate.
I pointed out to her that very few (if any) real estate schools have basketball teams. She said, “I know” as though she had already looked into that.
But after having lived through the worst year in the century-long history of high schools sports in Arizona, the future has to be brighter, right?
“I hope so,” she said.