She’s only 5-foot-7, but Workman’s Evelyn Herrera plays with a gigantic heart and has overcome a lot to become one of the state’s leading scorers.
It’s not often a 5-foot-7 girls basketball player gets credit for invigorating a community, particularly a girl who has only been in town less than two years, but that’s what Evelyn Herrera from Workman of the City of Industry has done.
Not only has Evelyn energized the atmosphere at Workman, she’s living proof that big things really do come in small packages and has literally put the girls basketball program on the map.
Last week, in a 71-30 victory over Bassett of La Puente, Herrera had 29 points, 10 steals and eight assists. She also had 26 points and eight rebounds in a 69-45 triumph against Sierra Vista of Baldwin Park.
It was the 11th straight and 20th overall game this season the CIF Southern Section’s second-leading scorer has been over 20 points for the Lobos, who were 18-4 heading into this week.
Now, for performances all season on the court and in school, plus for overcoming extreme adversity, the young woman, who along with her mother and brother moved to City of Industry to escape the turmoil of East Los Angeles, has been named the ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Week.
In the senior’s less than two seasons since transferring from Los Angeles Garfield, Herrera passed the 1,000-point mark as a Lobo in the Sierra Vista win. Including the two seasons in East Los Angeles, she now has over 1,600 career points.
The reality is her averages of 26.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.8 steals and 5.0 assists are less important to her than the team.
“This little girl is so special. She deserves so much love,” said second-year Workman coach Joe Oronoz, a property manager who also grew up in East Los Angeles.
“The most important thing to her is she loves her girls and makes them feel like they belong,” continued Oronoz. “And she’s loyal to her girls; carries them on her back. We all jumped on her back. This little girl put Workman on the map.”
It wasn’t always that way.
It didn’t take long for the girls to take to Evelyn, but it wasn’t easy in the beginning.
“She had a lot of bad breaks growing up but it was still hard for her to leave her friends and her roots in East L.A.,” Oronoz remarked. “In the beginning it bothered the other girls that she would still be wearing her old school’s colors.”
Herrera’s colors now are the scarlet, gold and black of Workman.
“They welcomed me and I welcomed them,” she said. “Now, we’ve become like sisters. The most important thing is the team. They’re not just girls, they’re my family. I’ll do anything for them.”
After a rocky start, Herrera and junior Essence Pineda have become best friends.
Herrera has grown up without her father around very much.
“Basketball is her environment. When she’s on the court, she doesn’t have to worry about other things,” Oronoz said.
“When I’m on the court, it gives me a chance to feel good. Off the court, I think about him and he knows I love him.”
My best assets are…
“Playing defense and getting back if one my teammates gets burned. I love shooting and sometimes it’s all I want to do, but I love to share the ball. Just being with my girls, having a good time, and being all around for them as a teammate.”
“She’ll guard anyone. Even a 6-foot girl,” Oronoz said.
Evelyn’s single working mother, Leticia Ron, who did track as a youth, gets to every game even if it means juggling work.
“No matter if it’s far away, she’s always there.”
Her 18-year-old brother, Alex Herrera, played some basketball but is concentrating on studies.
No one from the 3.0 GPA student-athlete’s family has gone to college.
“I want to make my family proud and my goal is to go to college and play basketball. I really want to go all the way to the pros, but my backup is to be a college or high school coach and enjoy basketball.”
Favorite team and player: “The Lakers and Derek Fisher. His daughter had cancer and supporting breast cancer awareness is important to me.”
Movie: “Love & Basketball.”
Music: “The rapper Drake. With what I’ve been through, his words have meaning to me.”
Place to go: “Hawaii.”
Coach’s final comments
“I cried when I heard she was selected. I prayed someone would jump on her story. She’s a much better person than player, humble, puts everyone before herself. Now, if someone will just take a chance on her.”
So far Fresno State, San Jose State and Hawaii have shown some interest.
“I really want to thank Coach Oronoz for being there for me. Things are getting better. I’m at a better school and it’s becoming more normal.”
Tips for young girls
“Follow your dreams, never give up, make no excuses and have a great attitude on and off the court.”
It takes a village
Before Herrera came to Workman, very few fans attended games.
Although the Lobos lost to Duarte earlier this week on the road, they packed their league rivals’ gym.
The bright spot was Herrera, who kept her 20-point streak alive, going for 25 in the loss.
“It never happened before but now we have the band and cheerleading at a girls game, and we fill the whole section with fans,” Oronoz said. “This little girl has transformed the school.”
The transformations have gone both ways, too. Evelyn Herrera has changed a lot in the last two years and a bright future has opened up in front of her.
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