If these two were going to be stars by their junior college career's end, it sure didn't start out that way.
But Clay Greenland and Dominick Lozano overcame potentially devastating injuries from last season to help lead Peninsula College's men's basketball team to a division championship, a No. 1 seed at the NWAACC tournament this week and one of the more remarkable finishes to a regular season in school history.
Call them an unlikely duo.
Lozano, a 5-foot-11-inch player from Barrow, Alaska, terrorizes opponents from the outside. With five more three-pointers on Saturday night, he has 94 triples to his name this season. But he could hardly shoot for most of 2005-06, thanks to a broken wrist he suffered in a preseason contest that kept him out of half a dozen games. With doctors demanding rest for his whole body, Lozano's conditioning suffered. When he did get a chance to play near season's end, he could only battle for three- and four-minute spells.
"His work ethic," says coach Peter Stewart, "is excellent. He got back in phenomenal shape."
This season, it's the rest of the NWAACC that has suffered. Witness his seven three-pointers and 30 points against Shoreline Jan. 30, or his five triples and 26 points in a one-point loss at Everett Jan. 23.
But when it came time to knock off some of the best teams in the uber-competitive North Division, Lozano shortened up his range a bit. With the score tied at 66 and less than 20 seconds left against Whatcom on Feb. 18, Lozano calmly dribbled to the top and looked to distribute. But the lane opened up and he drove past his defender, hitting the game-winning lay-up.
Two nights later against Everett, Lozano took a feed from teammate Ernie Grimes and calmly drilled a 12-foot jumper with nearly no time left.
"I tell anyone I can, the kid can flat shoot," says coach Peter Stewart. "His mechanics are very sound."
It's the game Lozano worked on back in Barrow that helped his high school team all the way to the 2004 Alaska 3A state title game - a 70-65 loss to Valdez in overtime - and got him named to the state's all-tournament team.
Now Lozano takes NBA-range three-pointers, rarely looking at the line in front of him. This season, he has led the Pirates in scoring a dozen times and scored 20 points or more 15 times, tied with (who else?) Greenland for top team honors.
Before he'd even stepped on a basketball court for the Pirates, the 6-foot-5 Greenland had an accident on a construction site, damaging his feet badly.
"His feet are all pins and screws," Stewart reveals.
But the kid whose coach calls "bouncy" couldn't be kept off the court, averaging 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 19 minutes per contest as a sophomore. Then, as fate would have it, Greenland broke his wrist near season's end and played through it, contributing nine points and four boards each game in limited minutes during Peninsula's fifth-place run through the NWAACC tourney.
This year, he's simply blossomed. A likely candidate for 20 points and 10 rebounds each night, Greenland's racked up 11 double-doubles and shouldered the scoring load when teams try to lock down Lozano or other Peninsula weapons like Christian Harris and Jesse Bean.
Looking past the numbers, Greenland seems like a springy shooting guard in a post player's body.
"He doesn't have a real "off the shelf" game," Stewart said, noting Greenland's knack of jumping almost horizontally, finding space at unexpected angles to get lay-ups and rebounds.
It's the kind of skill that can help a player shine brightly on the high school stage, as Greenland did for Kanab High School in Utah. He took his Kanab High School squad to a third-place finish at the Utah 2A state championships in 2003 and earned a spot on the all-tournament team after scoring more points than anyone else.
This season, Greenland leads the squad with 20.0 points and 8.3 rebounds each night, highlighted by his 36-point, 11-rebound explosion against Seattle Jan. 19.
Greenland is married (wife Jenny) and has a son (Caden), making him an elder statesman for the team, if there can be one at a junior college.