Irvine Valley College Athletics released its 2011-2012 team rosters last week for both men’s and women’s basketball. The teams have five returning sophomores and a crop of newcomers.
Jerry Hernandez is in his 17th year as coach of the men’s team. It finished last season with an impressive 23-8 overall and 8-4 in the Orange Empire Conference, ranking third and making the regional finals after defeating No. 1 Mt. San Antonio.
In the 2009-10 season, the team reached a milestone playing in the state tournament for the first time. Winning 26 games, it ranked in the top three in California. The previous season the team set a school record winning 27 games, ranked as one of the top teams in the state and playing in the regional finals.
Hernandez said he lost two good players who transferred to a four-year college so he will take each day at a time.
“We have two guards with steady experience, while the others develop their skills,” Hernandez said.
Returning this season are guards Kalob Hatcher, Ramon Mejia, Chris Taylor and Jose Vasquez. Hatcher shot 84 percent on free throws in 31 games played last season, averaging nine points per game with Mejia right behind with 82 percent averaging 8.8 points. The 6-foot-7 forward Yanick Kulich returns with the highest field goal average at 52 percent with 50 percent of 3-pointers.
“Kalob Hatcher and Ramon Mejia are smart and tough,” Hernandez said. “They’re the backbone of our team.”
New to the team is guard Jordan Hamamoto who made All-Southern Section his junior year of high school at Anaheim’s Western High. Last year he played for Lake Superior State.
Another transfer, Austin Loeb, a 6-foot-8 center, comes from Colorado Christian University. Prior, he played for Brethren Christian in Huntington Beach where he was recognized most valuable player for both his team and league.
“In time, success will come in the development of Austin Loeb and will determine how good we’ll be,” Hernandez said.
Other incoming freshman show promise based on their high school experience. Christian Scott comes to IVC from Irvine’s University High. The 6-foot-4 freshman forward averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds a game.
Rounding out the newcomers are Zach Mills (Esperanza), Michael Bolden (Trabuco Hills), Steel Sylte (Tesoro), Kirill Sergeyev (Irvine), and Jeff Given (Los Alamitos).
As for the Laser women, Coach Julie Hanks echos the sentiments of Hernadez.
“I’ve got five returning players–one redshirted last season. We should be very competitive this year based on returning players,” Hanks said. “This should be a fun year.”
Under the guidance of experienced coach Hanks, the IVC women’s team has made the Southern California Regional playoffs nine out of the last 12 years.
With a 13-14, 4-6 finish last season, the Lasers grabbed fifth position in the Orange Empire Conference.
Returning sophomore, 5-foot-10 forward Megan Blackwell finished the season with 37 percent on field goals in 94 of 252 attempts and 84 percent on free throws. Her scoring average was 9.3. She scored 21 points in only 18 total minutes of game play against Taft High.
Other returning players include guard Camille Rosales, guard/forward Ashlie Washington and forwards Jackie Fa’asamala and Melanie Kashanchi.
The Lasers welcome some notable talent in the freshman players.
Amber Wharton, from Murrieta Valley High, averaged 12.1 points, 3.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game last season.
The 5-foot-9 guard helped her school’s team to an exciting 9-1 finish, capturing its first league title in 10 years. She earned MVP of the Southwestern League and was named to several regional all-star teams.
Canyon High’s Dominique Santos was instrumental in the Comanches’s 24-9 record, a CIF 2A title and a spot in the state tournament.
Cynthia Veopaseuth hails from Fort Myers, Fla., where she played for Riverdale High. The 5-foot-5 guard is studying graphic design at IVC, according to her Facebook page.
Lindsay Klonowski (San Clemente), Lizeth Tamayo (Segerstrom), Andrea Uceda (Beckman), Alyssa Simons (Spirit Christian), Shomari McCorkle (Villa Park), Alex Yancey (El Modena) complete the 2011-2012 Laser team.
Both men’s and women’s teams have non-conference and tournament play to solidify individual skills and to develop themselves as a team over the next two months and through the holiday break. For both, conference play opens Friday, Jan. 6 at Santa Ana College. For more information, see www.ivc.edu/athletics.