PRO-gression: Herrera inks hoops deal

Former Ignacio Bobcat Alex Herrera zones in on a medium-range jumper inside IHS Gymnasium versus Ouray during the 2008-09 season. Herrera recently signed his first professional hoops contract after completing a stellar career at NCAA Division II Fort Lewis College in Durango.
Joel Priest | The Southern Ute Drum


Fortunately the sport of basketball is a global language all its own.

And former Ignacio High School star Alex Herrera seems to have it mastered. Which is a good thing considering where his hoops odyssey will be taking him next, as announced online Tuesday, Aug. 11.

‘206-senttinen Alex Herrera KTP:n haaviin!’ read the headline, followed by an article which will never read any easier – though excerpts like ‘Elokuussa 23-vuotta täyttävä Alex “The Chief” Herrera on kotoisin Coloradon osavaltiosta, 700 asukkaan Ignacion kaupungista….’ make it fairly clear what happened.

The La Plata County big signed his first professional contract.

Having seen West Coast summer action recently in the Venice Beach, Calif.-centered Venice Basketball League, keeping his skills sharp after going unselected in the 2015 NBA Draft, Herrera committed to take his post-dominating presence to KTP (that is, Kotkan Työväen Palloilijat) Basket in Finland’s Korisliiga.

“It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid,” said longtime IHS head coach Chris Valdez. “A kid like that earns everything he gets. And I’m just so proud of him and wish him the best as he starts his pro career!”

“It’s an honor to be his mom,” Kathy Herrera said of her son, who will turn a prime 23 tomorrow.

Located in the southwestern coastal city of Kotka – owning a population nearing that of Grand Junction, Colorado – KTP went a first-place 29-11 in 2014-15, and then began the postseason by eliminating the Helsinki Seagulls three games to none in the circuit’s quarterfinals. Bisons Loimaa, however, then pulled a 3-2 upset in the semis and KTP was forced to salvage third via a 92-79 defeat of Kauhajoen Karhu on May 12th.

A title would have been the club’s seventh since its 1957 debut, but its first since 1994.

Herrera’s acquisition will undoubtedly prove beneficial for the team; former University of Rhode Island forward LaMonte Ulmer, who averaged 17.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game during the ’14-15 grind, agreed last month to play in Germany’s Bundesliga this season for Würzburg-based, 2007-founded s.Oliver Baskets.

(The club’s previous incarnation, DJK Würzburg, gave rise to a young hopeful named Dirk Nowitzki.)

At NCAA Division II Fort Lewis College in Durango, Herrera finished his Skyhawk days starting all 29 games as a senior in ’14-15, averaging a double-double (23.7 points, 11.6 rebounds per) and blocking 94 shots. He shot 56.1% from the floor (230-of-410) and 67.3% (224-of-333) from the free-throw line as FLC went 20-9 overall.

All-time at “Colorado’s Campus in the Sky,” Herrera ranks No. 1 in blocks and No. 2 in both points and boards.

Represented by Cremona, Italy-headquartered Two Points Basketball Agency – which also represents former CSU-Pueblo All-America forward Damon Williams (a Korisliiga star himself with Tampereen Pyrintö) – details of the 6’10” pivot’s agreement with KTP had not been disclosed by press time.

It’s a good possibility, however, that the mere opportunity to hoop overseas outweighed overseas currency.

“He sets such a good example for his siblings,” Kathy Herrera said. “He’s very goal-oriented; when he hit college he said ‘I want to play pro basketball’ and now, after turning pro, I can guarantee you he has another goal. Don’t know what it is yet – he hasn’t told me – but he’s probably already working on it.”

“He recruits US to go with him to the gym,” she continued, alluding to herself and husband Chris, “recruits his friends to go to the gym and rebound for him … You dream big and nothing’s ever out of reach.”

“He comes from a humble background, you know,” Valdez said. “You see how they love him up at Fort Lewis? People don’t just love him for what he does on the court; they love him because he’s approachable, personable … and a kid like that, you just want to get behind and support him.”

Though unable to be reached for comment by press time (as was retiring FLC skipper Bob Hofman), when considering his previous Australian exploits it’s safe to say he’ll soon have backers on three continents.

All of them united by a common, spherical ‘tongue.’

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