May 27, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

After team’s season cancelled, IVC Coach Jerry Hernandez begins to focus on 2021-22

IVC men’s basketball coach Jerry Hernandez (from left) with all-tourney guard JT Robinson (JSerra High), MVP Austin Carter (Sonora High) and all-tournament player Christian Louis after the Lasers defeated Cerritos 63-59 last November to win the 25th annual Annual San Juan Hills Toyota Classic. (Photo courtesy IVC Athletics)

During normal times, Irvine Valley College men’s basketball coach Jerry Hernandez would be spending much of his time in the gymnasium coaching his Laser team in games and practices.

But the coronavirus pandemic, which haulted community college sports last March, continues to have a devastating affect for athletes. Last month, Irvine Valley College officials notified officials with the California Community College Athletic Association that the school was opting out of the first spring season.

Men’s basketball was one of the sports affected. So Hernandez, who wrapped up his 25th year after the 2019-20 season, had to inform his players that there wouldn’t be a season this year. The Lasers were 17-13 overall and reached the second round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs last year.

“Upon learning IVC opted out for the first phase that eliminated basketball and all contact sports, I was disappointed, mostly for our players,” Hernandez said. “We, as coaches, have the great fortune to have many basketball seasons, but for the players, their college basketball experiences are short lived.

“For young men, a year is an eternity. For adults, it goes quickly. It has definitely been challenging for our athletes because this is the first time in their young lives that they have not had basketball practices and games to look forward to. High schools virtually play year-round, so this is quite a shock to not be playing.”

Hernandez and associate head coach Jason Garey have been in contact with the IVC players, holding Zoom meetings and advising IVC players to be patient. In addition, they informed players that the NCAA has ruled that those who would have been on this year’s team won’t lose a year of college eligibility, Hernandez said.

“When we return they will all also come back better players than if they hadn’t gotten the year off,” Hernandez said. “Our focus now is forward, concentrating on academics and personal improvement training. It has also been a good opportunity for our students to work and save some money for when they go to a four-year school.”

Hernandez remains optimistic about the future with basketball scheduled to return in November. 

“Our expectations were high and still are,” he said. “The staff and I feel we have a strong core of returning players at every position and we are blessed to have landed a strong freshmen class. We have size, speed and depth that will allow us to compete at a high level.

“Our advice to them is to try to use this time to get their body college basketball-ready and to work on skills they might be deficient in. During the season we don’t always have time for personal training due to classes, gym time, and work. With a little luck, we might have an opportunity to get back to campus in mid-March, and once again train together

“Personally, I was deflated for a few days, but realized that not having a season is the right thing to do.”

Hernandez said the pandemic has hit close to home.

“Unfortunately, I have lost one friend to COVID-19 and several have become very ill,” he said. “It is essential that we slow down this awful virus, and it’s important that community colleges do their part to reduce the spread.

“To help me get past the pandemic, I keep my attention moving forward by assisting our players any way I can, staying involved with their lives and reassuring them things will get better is crucial. Before they know it, we will be back together playing as a unit.”

Hernandez said he is hopeful that some competitions, while not regular games, can be held during the off-season. State and local health officials would have to give approval.

“Spring and summer events bring a lot of hope for showcases and scrimmages,” he said. “The dates have not been set, but IVC will be in as many as we are allowed to participate in. I am very optimistic for the 2021-22 season. We think of our team as being strong in most areas.

“My staff and I will continue training our returning players, as well as potentially adding a few players where we need help. I am looking forward to the upcoming season and the opportunity to coach some great young men.”

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;