Tucked in the northeast of the Sun City, a new professional basketball squad is starting to make a name for themselves across the country.
The Southwest Desertcats—who play in the American Basketball Association (ABA)—are a premier men's basketball team under the Southwest Desert Hoops organization in El Paso. The squad is currently ranked No. 3 in the ABA, behind only the North Alabama War Dawgs (8-0) and the Steel City Yellow Jackets (7-0).
This weekend, the undefeated Desertcats (6-0) will play a back-to-back home series against the Tucson Buckets, featuring a 6 p.m. tipoff on Saturday and a 1 p.m. Sunday start. The team plays all of its home games at Skyline Optimist Gym (5050 Yvette Ave).
If you aren't able to make the game, you can watch the live stream for free here online.
The league provides free rapid COVID-19 for all of the players, coaches and fans that attend each game. Patrons and players must test negative in order to participate in the gameday activities for the Southwest Desert Hoops organization.
About the Desertcats & ABA
They kickstarted their organization last year, but due to the pandemic, saw their inaugural season filled with cancelations. Amid the pandemic, they were able to travel to play in several showcases out of town. This helped give them some national notoriety.
The ABA league operates across the country with hundreds of teams, broken down into 11 different divisions. The SW Desertcats play in the Pacific Region, including teams in California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Arizona, among others.
Founded in 1999, the restart of the original ABA came to be known as one of the largest pro sports leagues in the country. The season spans from November through April (along with the playoffs). The mission for the teams in the ABA is to be community-driven, "with a focus on giving back to communities."
The league is intended to make games fast-paced and guard-heavy. Opposed to the NBA's 8-second half-court violation, the ABA is 7 seconds. A turnover in the half court will give the opposing team the ball, thus initiating the special 3D light.
When the 3D light is on, madness ensues. Two-point field goals become three-points, and similarly, traditional 3-pointers turn into 4-pointers. If a player somehow hits a half court shot while the 3D light is on, they get a whopping five points.
No player can foul out of games either. Once a player hits six fouls, they receive a technical foul and the opposing team gets the ball.
Besides those different rules, the league follows standard NCAA basketball rules.
Meet the Desertcats
Comprised of a nice mix of local talent and out of town players, the Desertcats believe they have an strong nucleus of players to compete in the ABA.
Head coach Jesus Aragon joined the Southwest Desertcats and touts 20 years of coaching experience, including stints coaching the Women's Mexican National team as a FIBA licensed coach. Coach Aragon also won four Texas state championships in the 2A ranks and coached in two World Universal Games. Other coaches on his staff include El Pasoan Edgar Soto Sr.
Local players on the team include:
- Daniel Hernandez (Fort Lewis College; Liga de Americas Fuerza Regiq, Coronado HS);
- Jeffrey Long (Northern New Mexico College, Andress HS)
- Jesus Mendoza (Hanks HS);
- Andre Collins (Nebraska Doane College, Coronado HS);
- Sergio Marrufo (Bowie HS)
- Jordan Enriquez (Western NM, Bel Air HS)
- Willie Avalos (Pebble Hills HS)
- Timothy Muniz (UT Permian Basin, Western New Mexico, Canutillo HS)
- Caleb Moore (Chapin HS)
- Daniel Gutierrez (University of the Southwest; Franklin HS)
- Jayondre Leak (Andress HS)
- Derius Hegwood (Odessa College, Andress HS)
Out of town members on the roster:
- Anthony Robinson (ATL Wildcats, ABA; Knoxville College, Albany, GA)
- Bryan Rivera (Plateros)
- TJ Stukes (Harlem Wizards, Independence Community College, Bronx, NY)
- Shaquan Cantrell (Gainesville, GA)
SW Desert Lynx & SW Desert Storm
In addition to the ABA affiliated Desertcats, the Southwest Desert Hoops organization houses two other professional basketball clubs.
On the women's basketball side, the Southwest Desert Lynx is assembling a team for the upcoming season in the Women's Basketball Development Association (WBDA). The team is coached by Samantha Stukes and continues to field new members for its roster.
The Desert Storm is a semi-professional league across the country. El Pasoan Marcus Ruiz coaches the squad, which is coming off a 97-74 win over the Las Cruces All-Stars.