Senior point guard Adam Dzierzynski took the long road to Southern California College.
He followed a successful high school career at Santa Margarita by playing at Chapman for two seasons. Then he went to Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Europe . . .
Dzierzynski finally ended up at the Costa Mesa campus, and his play is a big reason SCC has fought its way into the Golden State Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament semifinals. The Vanguards will meet Azusa Pacific, the third-ranked team in the NAIA, Saturday at Whittier College.
Dzierzynski is averaging 18 points, second best in the conference, and a GSAC-leading 7.3 assists. He had 11 assists in SCC's 86-78 victory over Cal Baptist Wednesday in the first round of the conference tournament.
"Adam's the glue that holds this team together," SCC Coach Bill Reynolds said. "I haven't seen anyone who can go to the hole and create things like he can, then get the ball to the right people. And nothing seems to faze him."
But Dzierzynski lost that edge for a while.
After his two years at Chapman, Dzierzynski said he wasn't enjoying basketball or school anymore. He decided to take a year off and travel.
"I wanted to see the world," he said.
He spent 11 months away from home. He visited Hawaii and Australia before spending 4 1/2 months backpacking through Europe.
So what did he discover on his travels? The mysteries of Stonehenge or the beauty of Paris? Nope.
"I discovered how much I loved basketball," Dzierzynski said. "I played with some guys overseas, but I was hungry to get back here and play."
When Dzierzynski arrived at SCC, he said he received plenty of funny looks from his teammates.
"I was this out-of-shape, overweight guy with long hair," he said. "And these guys were asking themselves, 'This is supposed to be our point guard?' "
Reynolds said his new point guard made a simple request when he made his recruiting visit.
"I remember Adam's ponytail when he came back from his world odyssey," Reynolds said. "And he asked me, 'Can I keep my ponytail?' I thought if this is the only thing that will keep him from coming to SCC, he could keep it as long as he wanted.
"He kept it all last season, but now he's back to short hair and Mr. Ivy League. But it hasn't affected his play."
Dzierzynski's playmaking has taken his team to within two victories of a national tournament.
And, sure, SCC (19-14) has Azusa Pacific (29-4) standing in the way in the semifinals, while 13th-ranked Biola (28-5) and 21st-ranked Westmont (23-7) play each other in the other GSAC semifinal.
"We've beaten Biola this season and played Westmont tough," Dzierzynski said. "Sure, Azusa has beaten us good, but this is a big game and if we play hard, you never know."