Fri Jun 28th, 2013
Special to the Drum
San Antonio, Texas-based St. Mary’s University center Kevin Kotzur wasn’t surprised that his 21-point, 15-rebound line in the NCAA Division II Playoffs’ South Central Region semifinals was nearly mirrored by Fort Lewis College’s Alex Herrera (who had 18, 12, and five blocks).
“First off, that boy is a big boy,” the Rattler senior said of the Skyhawk now-junior in a StMU post-game release, after his 18th double-double of 2012-13 helped end FLC’s eighth-ever D-II Dance, 62 to 50 in Denver. “Let’s give him credit. He did a really good job of trying to post up. What we tried to do was move him off his spot, move him a little further away from the basket.”
Kotzur can consider himself lucky he won’t have to help bully Herrera — and now the big boy’s longtime homeboy — off the blocks this coming winter: Ex-Bobcat Ryan “Chunk” Brooks will be rejoining his former IHS teammate and bolstering boss Bob Hofman’s low-post plans.
“It’ll be good to be playing again,” Brooks said via phone from Artesia, N.M., before beginning another week of a summer internship through the Southern Ute Indian Tribe with Aka Energy Group LLC, learning ins and outs of oil and gas production, “especially with Alex. Just like high school.”
“He’s a big kid,” Hofman said, “and, basically, we had him practice with our guys in the spring. He guarded Alex well, he guarded Torrey [Udall] well … so we’re excited to have him on our roster.”
According to Brooks’ recollection, the offer for him to join the program was extended long after the Skyhawks’ season — ending 22-8 overall, up from 16-12 in ’11-12 — was completed March 17, but before FLC’s Spring Commencement, in which the 6-foot-9inch Udall’s days patrolling the paint officially ended with him holding a 3.8 GPA and earning a business administration degree.
“At first I was really excited,” Brooks said with a laugh, “and [assistant] coach [Bob] Pietrack got a hold of me, and they offered it to me after the first day of the tryouts. But when I started playing with the team … I was dying the first few days.”
“I’ve just played in Ignacio, Durango leagues,” continued the 2011 IHS grad, “so I’ve stayed pretty much in shape. Just haven’t played real competitive ball in a couple years.”
But with the 6-foot-10-inch Herrera — the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year after his 84 rejections topped former Lady Bobcat skipper Brice Searles’ 83—helping teach his 6-foot-7-inch friend the next level’s ropes, Hofman sounded confident of Brooks becoming a quick study in his system.
“Ignacio guys haven’t shied away from college ball. It’s not a huge transition for them,” he said. “Local players have taken pride in our uniform, and have been a staple of our program. … And he’s stepped right in. We love his attitude; he played for a great coach in [Chris] Valdez.”
“It all started at Ignacio High School,” Brooks said. “Coach Valdez and coach [Shane] Seibel, they made sure that every time I go out I try my best.”
“We’ve already got Alex, and we’ve got another guy coming in from Otero [Junior College] and he’s pretty good. … So I’ll just have to work hard to get some minutes.”
Following his outstanding (15.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.8 bpg) season, Herrera became the first men’s player in FLC history named to a National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District First Team, announced March 22.
“He’s worked extremely hard for any individual accomplishments he gets,” Hofman said in a release notifying media of the honor. “It’s a nice reflection on our whole team. The way Alex has worked this past year makes us extremely proud of his achievements.”