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“Sugar Land Five” working for Osina, WC

Michigan had the Fab Five in the early 1990s, leading them to back-to-back NCAA Division I national championship games.

Tyrik Armstrong - 2017Now, the Weatherford College Coyotes have the “Sugar Land Five.”

Recently, coach Mark Osina started a lineup that featured five freshmen - all from the same school district near Houston, Fort Bend, aka Sugar Land.

It included Tyrik Armstrong and Ken Busby from Elkins, Chance Edwards from Clements, Josh Ihek from Bush, and Zach Naylor from Travis.

"I went to a holiday tournament to watch Ken Busby, saw his teammate Tyrik, liked him too," Osina said. "I saw Josh, Zach and Chance. Liked all five.

"I went to work, made several trips to Houston. Lots of talent, young, will only get better."

Osina called on his long-time connections as well. He's known Clements coach Ralph Farley and Bush coach Ronnie Courtney for years. Travis assistant coach Darrell Hawkins played for him at Waller High School in 1984, and Phillip O'Neal, now the athletic director in Mansfield, was formerly the AD at Weatherford and Fort Bend.

The quintet, in some way or another, has known each other since they were youngsters, some as far back as elementary school.

"I played on the same third-grade basketball team as Ken and Tyrik," Edwards said. "It's great to be reunited."

Ken and Tyrik have known each other since they were 6.

"We used to always talk about going to the same college," Tyrik said. "Josh and Zach went to a rivalry school. It was always tough playing them, but I knew if we all played on one team, we could do great things."

Osina recently made the decision to start all five. They had played together as a unit in practice and were at times together on the court in a game doing impressive things, but he decided it was time to see what they could do as starters.

"It was funny, the announcer kept saying, 'From Houston, from Houston, from Houston,'" Osina said.

"It was really exciting. This has given us new confidence," Naylor said. "And it's a lot of fun because now we can cheer for each other."

The group of five has helped the Coyotes stay in the chase for a playoff berth from the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference. At the time of this article they were tied for fourth with Hill College at 4-6 in the league (16-11 overall).

Naylor was averaging 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, Busby was averaging 16.8 points and 5.0 assists, and Armstrong 14.8 points and 4.2 assists. Edwards was averaging 10.8 points and Ihek 5.0.

That's 68 of the 91 points the Coyotes average each game.

"They all have (NCAA Division I) potential," Osina said.

"Although we played against each other in high school, we played with the same competitive edge," said Ihek, who went to middle school with Naylor.

"That's the reason I came here, to play with these guys because I knew how good they are."

Busby already had a connection to Weatherford College. His cousin Warren was the starting point guard on the 1999 Coyotes team that finished third in the National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament.

"Warren told me to be better than he was," Ken said. "And he was pretty good, the No. 1 guard in the nation."

He added with a laugh that playing WITH Edwards, Ihek and Naylor is more fun than playing AGAINST.

"It's even better knowing we've got Josh blocking somebody else's shot instead of mine," he said, smiling. "Or Zach dunking on somebody else.
"The reunion has made us all a lot closer. We all realize this was a great idea."

As exciting as the rest of this season looks to be for the Coyotes, next season is already drawing some great vibes from Osina and the Coyotes faithful. Each of the Sugar Land Five has said they plan to return next season.

"Once we all get better, faster, smarter over the summer, watch out for us," Naylor said.

Naylor believes the pipeline to Fort Bend will continue for the Coyotes.

"There's a lot of talent down there. I talk to my high school coach from time to time and tell him we're having fun, so send 'em up," he said.

As for the future of the Sugar Land Five after next season, they will likely go their separate ways, but all want to keep playing at the next level, so . . . is it possible they stay together at a D-I school?

"Oh, for sure, that would be an epic story," Naylor said. "You just never know."

by Rick Mauch