30-Year-Old Mountie Turns Men’s Basketball On Its Head

Four months ago, the Mt. SAC Men’s Basketball Team found themselves in desperate need of a win. The Mounties were 6-10 with 11 games remaining in the regular season and the team was looking for a boost to avoid being the first team in nine years to finish with a losing record.

What happened next ended up being the turning point in Mt. SAC’s season.

Aaron Dutcher had his eligibility cleared and was available to play in their next game. Affectionately called “pops” and “dad” by his teammates, Dutcher was a 30 year-old man who hadn’t played any college basketball since 2011.

Mt. SAC’s next opponent, El Camino College, weren’t exactly known as a paragon of hoops, but the team was hungry after a three-game losing streak and had beaten the Mounties in December.

Dutcher came off the bench and wreaked havoc on the El Camino Warriors. He showed experience and finesse, absorbed contact and dealt it back out double. It was clear that he was a man among boys, putting up 29 points and 10 rebounds as the Mounties had their biggest win of the season in a 34-point rout of the Warriors.

The stellar performance catapulted the Mounties to win eight of their last 11 games, finishing with a winning record of 14-13. After the game, Dutcher talked about focusing on two things: preparing for the moment and waiting for the moment.

Dutcher’s preparation did him well as he went on to finish with a spot in the California Community College Athletic Association’s All-South Coast Conference basketball team with a 10.8 points and 9.2 rebound average. However, it was clear to me that when Dutcher was talking about waiting, he didn’t mean recently.

Dutcher was introduced to basketball by his baseball coach after mentioning Dutcher may have a natural knack for the sport. Despite being cut from his eighth grade team, he went on to play three years of varsity ball at Hesperia High School before making his way to Victor Valley College.

11 years ago, Dutcher stepped away from Victor Valley with an interest in working and getting away from school. Dutcher thought it wasn’t the smartest decision, but he doesn’t regret it one bit.

“I didn’t take school seriously; I love basketball, but I hated school. I just planned to make money and live life. It wasn’t the smartest choice, but I wasn’t meant to do that then,” Dutcher said. “I’m back in now and I’m earning a 4.0 [grade point average]. Instead of having those other jobs, this is my job.”

Dutcher worked various jobs to make ends meet, primarily as a bartender, but basketball was still very much a part of him. Dutcher was playing in adult leagues and a bit of pick-up basketball but nothing serious of note happened until 2013, where he started playing in Los Angeles’ Summer Pro League.

The Summer Pro League is essentially a showcase for coaches to scout talent and offer potential opportunities to players. Dutcher had to pay to play, but was approached afterwards to play in China. Dutcher paid for his own flight and was on a plane to somewhere he has never been before.

For six months, Dutcher played for the Jinsu Lions and found himself competing versus various teams in China for six months.

“Win or lose, they were excited to see you play and afterwards they would ask for your autograph… like I’m nobody and you want my autograph,” Dutcher said.

His time also included meeting star-struck school children, excited to meet exquisite basketball talent, no matter who it was.

China was a bittersweet experience however. As far as a job, nothing came of it and Dutcher was feeling pessimistic about where basketball could take him.

“I learned a lot, but nothing came of it; no team picked me up. When I got back, I had spent a lot of time doing that. I thought, maybe it wasn’t meant to be,” Dutcher said.

Despite that mindset at the time, Dutcher held no regrets towards his experience overseas.

“I learned a lot overseas, especially with where I’m at now, it definitely elevated my game. I became way smarter,” Dutcher said. “I became drastically better at rebounding; I had a guy essentially teach me how to rebound.”

I was taken aback by Dutcher’s notion of loving to rebound more than scoring, but he painted an intricate picture explaining how he improved his ability to anticipate rebounds and how rebounds control games.

After China, Dutcher found his knack for acting as well, appearing as a series regular in VH1’s Hit The Floor, a UCLA football player in a commercial for the university, and what he regards as his most memorable, being Tom Brady’s body-double in a commercial for EA Sports’ Madden 18.

“They put all the [motion capture] green dots on me, and I was acting like I was Tom Brady,” Dutcher said. “That was awesome.”

Despite some newfound success, Dutcher wanted to complete his education after 11 long years. He is currently pursuing a major in computer science with plans to becoming a programmer.

Dutcher initially didn’t consider playing basketball until athletic counselor Shane Poulter recommended he go to Mt. SAC after playing pick-up games with Dutcher at a local gym. After being sold on priority registration, Dutcher enrolled and went on to find immense success with the Mounties, despite his initial doubts.

“I did. It was one of those things, because of society, where I asked myself, ‘I’m thirty, what am I really hoping for with this?’ I tried to go overseas, I tried different camps and it hadn’t really worked out in my favor,” Dutcher said. “At the same time, I was always on the court; I love the game. Talking to Shane, I realized that I could do this.”

Outside of societal norms, Dutcher’s body needed to adjust to playing basketball again. He praised the training staff for helping him.

“My body broke down a bit and I had little hiccups that I had to overcome but the athletic trainers here are awesome and they helped me a lot,” Dutcher said.

Dutcher had to take extra care after practices, spending much more time recovering than his younger teammates.

Off the court, his age led him to a mentor role with his teammates, but it also shifted his relationship with Mt. SAC Men’s Basketball coach, Clark Maloney.

“It was different. It was different in a good way. [Maloney] knows me, I’m here to get a job done, I’m not here to mess around in college, I’m here to get my certificates and play basketball,” Dutcher said. “I gave my time and effort on the court and did the same off the court. My mentality is different now that I’m thirty,”

Dutcher is now enjoying the fruits of his labor, finishing in the All-SCC first team and now has a full-ride offer to play for a university in Florida and another offer in Texas.

Dutcher wants to see out where basketball can take him, but his main focus is still education.

“My goal is to get better and evolve my game since I’m going against better competition, taking care of my body and my game, but also to get my degree,” Dutcher said.

With his eyes now set for a new chapter ahead, Dutcher recognizes the impact of his achievements in his journey thus far, affirming that it’s never too late to be who you were meant to be.

“It brings a good feeling. It feels like a second chance to do what I love,” Dutcher said. “I can say, I have a full ride offer right now. It’s so unreal to me; it’s like a Cinderella story for me.”