ELOY — The Santa Cruz Valley boys basketball team has hit a rough patch in the past two seasons.

The program has a combined 1-31 record in the past two seasons, and have not posted a winning record since they went 18-11 in the 2016-17 season.

However, new head coach George Courtney is looking to turn things around, and build a solid foundation and bring success back to the program once again.

Courtney is no stranger to Eloy and Santa Cruz, as he started his coaching career with the Dust Devils, he first started as an assistant coach in 2013.

He added that it is a great feeling to come back, and have the chance to right the ship at Santa Cruz.

“It’s really nice for things to come full circle and come back home, and take over for the place that I got my start,” Courtney said. “I am very excited, out of all the stops I have had as a coach, the Eloy kids have been some of the most hard working kids I have ever seen. It’s a great homecoming for me, it really is.”

Courtney understands that the process of turning things around for the Santa Cruz basketball program will take time and won’t be easy, he says that the biggest thing he wants is to capitalize on the young crop of incoming freshmen in order to start building the foundation for the program.

“This first season is all about getting the kids to come back and buy into what we are trying to do,” Courtney said. “We just gotta pretty much mold these young athletes for the next year or two, and by the time they are juniors and seniors, I think we should see a really nice, healthy end product.”

Santa Cruz football coach and Athletic Director James Fitzgerald spoke about the process of bringing Courtney on as the new head coach, saying both him and Courtney have a great working relationship together, and are on the same page about what they want to see from the team.

“Every person I talked to on campus sounded like they really liked having him here previously, everyone had positive things to say about him so that really stood out,” Fitzgerald said. “He is a local guy from the area, but most importantly, he is a great coach. He’s really here for the kids, I think he is going to be a great fit for the type of kids we have here at Santa Cruz.”

Both Fitzgerald and Courtney are ready to bring the basketball program at Santa Cruz back to a sustainable level, with Fitzgerlad saying he believes that Courtney is the perfect guy for the job and is the right person to get the program winning again.

“We know that it is a building process, but we also know that this program can be successful because it has been successful as recently as five or six years ago,” Fitzgerald said. “We may not have a lot of returning players to the program, but we have a lot of really talented young guys that are going to get a lot of playing time.”

Courtney will get his first chance to hit the floor as head coach at the Joe Partain Memorial Classic tournament in Coolidge on Nov. 26.

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David Church is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. He can be reached at dchurch@pinalcentral.com.

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