For Columbia first-year head coach Rob Hoyt, the local products have been the glue for the team all season.
“They have been great,” Hoyt said. “Never an issue with their attitudes. Never an issue with their effort. They were put in a tough situation. Two coaches in two years, and they made the best of it.”
Initially, Hoyt planned to clean house and start fresh with a new slate of players after being hired in May of 2013. He wasn’t sure if any of the hoopsters from the previous season were going to return until he met individually with Gomez and Radford for interviews.
Both young men turned out to be Hoyt’s type of guys.
“I felt like they had really high character and I kept them,” Hoyt said. “They fit that mold. They handled it really well. They do what they’re told and they do it well. We would probably not have half of our wins if they weren’t on our team.”
Gomez, a reserve point guard, has seen his minutes increased slightly as a sophomore. After appearing in 21 games as a freshman and scoring just 15 points, he has been a key player off the bench for Columbia.
As a sophomore this season, Gomez has played in the majority of games, including a few starts. He has recorded 13 assists and seven rebounds in limited action.
“Jordan’s been huge,” Hoyt said. “He’s extremely coachable. He accepts his role. He embraces his role. When he’s in there, he doesn’t turn the ball over. He executes. He’s just a great teammate. The guys like him. He’s very positive. He’s been very fun to coach.”
Radford, who set a single-game Bret Harte record with 47 points against Summerville as a Bullfrog senior, is one of the Claim Jumpers top playmakers off the bench.
But as a freshman in 2012-13, Radford was a consistent contributor.
Radford suited up in 24 contests and was second on the Columbia squad with 11 points per game. He drilled a team-high 52 shots from 3-point range, grabbed 47 rebounds and dished 21 assists. He led the Claim Jumpers with 248 attempts from the field and finished with a 35 percent shooting mark.
This season, although the minutes have dropped, Radford has provided a spark as a role player.
The versatile guard has scored in every game except one. He has netted double figures six times, including a season-best 18 points against William Jessup JV in November and averages nearly seven points per match.
Radford is third on the team in 3-point baskets made with 24. He is also shooting better than 77 percent from the free throw line.
“He’s been great,” Hoyt said. “He’s a key guy coming off the bench. We like him to shoot it when he’s open. He’s shooting a high percentage. When he does that we are a much better team. There’s no question he’s one of the top pure shooters on the team.”
In Gomez and Radford’s senior season at Bret Harte in 2011-12, the duo helped the Bullfrogs clinch an outright Mother Lode League title with a perfect 15-0 record in head coach Jerry Rucker’s last year. It was the first championship the program captured in nearly a decade.
“It was great,” Gomez said. “It was a big accomplishment for our school. To get that league championship was great for our senior year. Playing along with Danny was just another easy option for me because he was shooting the ball so well. It was awesome.”
Bret Harte advanced to the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section Championships, routing Waterford 91-54 as the No. 2 seed, and eventually, fell 52-46 in the second round to Ripon.
The Bullfrogs completed that season boasting an overall 23-5 record.
For Radford, that amazing run was a memory that will never be forgotten.
“We had great team chemistry,” Radford said. “We had a good team. It was probably one of the highlights of my life. It was nice.”
With just three games left on the Columbia schedule, the camaraderie on the court between Gomez and Radford will truly be missed.
“I’m going to miss it a lot,” Radford said. “We’ll probably play in open gym and stuff. Pickup games with each other.”
“It’ll definitely be missed,” Gomez said. “I know Danny has a different path ahead of him and so do I, but I’ll definitely miss it.”
The Claim Jumpers (11-13, 4-5 Central Valley Conference) knocked off Merced College (2-19, 1-8) 63-50 earlier this season on the road.
In that victory, Gomez made two steals and distributed an assist. Radford finished with four points, two assists and a rebound.
“They’re just great people,” Hoyt said. “Basketball is going to end at some point. They’re great people. They’re fun to be around. Those are the types of guys we want to bring in in the future. They’re the model moving forward. They’re really good people. If we get more guys like Danny and Jordan in this program, we’re going to be heading in the right direction.”