Labor of love, Pima boys basketball receives locker room facelift

Photo By Amy Napier: The Pima Roughriders Boys Basketball team’s locker room received a facelift this year.

The “extreme makeover” was three years in the making

“We hope to use it a lot over the next three (to) four years.” 

Pima head coach Cliff Thompson

By Jon Johnson

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

PIMA – One man’s dream led to a desire, which led to a dedication of a labor of love that culminated in a championship-worthy locker room for the Pima Roughriders boys basketball team. 

Assistant coach and statistician Joe Napier constructed the idea three years ago with the desire of having a professional space for pre-game dressing, halftime instruction, and film study. He saw the team work hard in practice and during the games and felt the players deserved a space dedicated to them.  

“It all started for me when at halftime and you’d have kids sitting on the floor and standing up because there’s no place to sit and my role as one of the assistants is to support the program and I just thought this is something I can do, something I understand,” Napier said. “It’s turned out awesome. It’s better than I even envisioned.” 

Photo By Amy Napier: A before picture of the space.

Each player has his own locker/dressing area stenciled with their name and adorned with the Roughriders logo. The cubbies hold personalized bags and backpacks as well as their game uniforms.  

Napier first identified a possible space, a “training room” that hadn’t been used for roughly 15 years and was adjacent to the main locker room.  

Once he the space was approved, Napier was eager to move forward but as a public school, there was no funding for the project. Napier and the coaching staff reached out to the public and the local businesses responded in kind. With that support behind him, Napier went to work as the main architect, foreman, and construction worker as he and the other coaches spent many a late night transforming the space into what it has now become and the results are Instagram-worthy.  

“There has been a lot of support from the community to help pay for it and then, yeah, coaches – I mean, we spent a lot of late nights, (and) a lot of Saturdays and Fridays working and adapting the vision,” Napier said. 

Photo By Amy Napier: The finished product.

In addition to the cubbies, the room features a new wall and ceiling fan, LED lighting, a new carpet, and fresh paint. 

Locals and businesses who contributed materials, money, time, talents, or all the above include Napier and head coach Cliff Thompson, Hyrum McBride, Jason Brimhall, Craig Bloomfield and Velocity Builders, Ryan Johnson and Thee Window Ninjas, Jason Hughes and Hughes Properties, Braven Grant and Gaines In Bulk, Wes Dunham and Western Fleet and Tire, Josh Wilkins and Peterbuilt Construction, the Tilley family, and the McBride family. 

“I hope it makes us better to be able to (do) film and to talk about it and learn the game even better,” Napier said. “That’s one of my main purposes. (It) gives us a space to be better as a team and to treat something well and be treated like a champion. It turned out, I think, as good as a lot of junior colleges and a lot of places. I don’t know if we’ll be in a nicer locker room as a 2A team all year besides our own.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Pima boys basketball team finshes a practice.

In addition to the locker room/film training area, the ice machine room also received a facelift of a new washer and dryer, new plumbing, and water jug cabinets and cupboards. And the players are appreciative.

“It’s a nice locker room,” said senior Grant Ashby. “I can’t wait for this season, especially to play in here. The other one (locker room) is really bad; it’s like really old. All the lockers have holes (and) it’s all nasty. This way we get our individual lockers and it’s nice. I’m thankful for our coaches.”  

“It was nice to come into here because one thing that our coaches noticed last year and the years past is we usually have 12 to 14 on the team and there’s only about seven or eight that could sit in that other locker room, so to come in here and have 14 seats, individualized with a cushion, I’m beyond thankful for them for putting that together,” said senior Seth Russell. “Just to come in and have a spot to sit down is incredibly awesome . . . It’s nice to have this one all customized – painted, TV, whiteboard, mini fridge. It’s everything you could ask for and more.”

Barely six days removed from its 2A State Football Championship game, Pima played its first basketball game on Friday, Dec. 2 on the road and defeated a tough Arizona Lutheran Coyotes team 43-40. Now coach Thompson is looking forward to getting his team healthy and into basketball mode. 

“We’re just ready to get rolling with the rest of the season,” coach Thompson said.

That train will depart this Friday, Dec. 9, starting at 7 p.m. as the Roughriders open their home season against the Trivium Prep Crimson Knights (3-2).