GHS’ Valencia fights pressure, doubts to land a spot at Trinity Int. to play hoops

After the countless hours in the gym and after all the frustrations over the years, Adina Valencia signs her letter of intent to play for Trinity International University in Illinois during a ceremony at Gilroy High School Monday.

The Gilroy girls basketball team had one winning season after going 22-2 in the 2010-11 campaign heading into this past year.
In the interim, including going 16-9 in 2013-14, the Mustangs went a combined 40-69.
That included winning two Gabilan Division games combined in the 2014-15 and 15-16 seasons.
Coach Mitchell Pierce believed in the process and insisted the team not be dropped to the Pacific Division, knowing the players he had coming through the program.
His faith paid off with a 17-9 2016-17 season that included going to the second round of the CCS playoffs.
And on Monday, one of the biggest reasons Gilroy experienced a turn around signed her letter of intent to play basketball in college.
Gilroy’s Adina Valencia will play at the next level in Illinois, signing on to play for Trinity International University.
“There’s not a player I appreciate more because of her dedication,” Pierce said. “Dedication is when no one else wants to play basketball, she’s there in the gym.”
The road to get to that point was anything but certain for Valencia and the tears from her friends and family who turned out to watch her sign her letter of intent proved that.
Valencia said there was a lot of frustration over the years and that frustration nearly derailed her desire to keep playing.
“Due to the last season coming into my fourth season, I was really tired; I was really upset,” Valencia said. “I didn’t really have the mind-set to make playoffs. We hadn’t made playoffs before, but that was our goal was to make playoffs.
“After we started coming together and getting wins … we wanted to prolong that. I would send a text and Maddie would send a text, ‘hey, grab your jerseys let’s give this everything we got.”
She said in the down years, it was hard to keep up the desire to work hard in the off season. She said at times when things went south for the team on the court, she didn’t know why she was working as hard as she was.
But Pierce and Assistant Coach Casey insisted she was a role model for the other players and she had to hold herself to a higher standard if everyone else was to follow.
“In the beginning, I felt real bad for the younger girls because there was no senior leadership,” Casey said. “It was a mess. Then Adina, Jackie (Morales) and Maddie (Cox) became seniors and I said this is not going to happen again.”
Casey challenged Valencia, specifically, to be a leader.
“I said you got to not just show up, I said you got to be a leader,” Casey said.
“This is the gas to that engine over there,” Casey said pointing to Valencia and then over to the group of players to their left. “That’s the engine over there. This is the gas.”
That meant often being the only player in the gym working out.
It meant getting on the phone with her teammates making sure they would show up to practice.
It meant being the go between for her teammates to their coach.
The result was along with fellow seniors Maddie Cox and Jackie Morales, the Mustangs discovered who they were. They started winning games. They advanced to the playoffs and won in dramatic fashion over Westmoor.
The result was before she signed her letter of intent, players described what she meant to them and to the team as tears rolled down their faces.
Valencia said she chose Trinity by more chance than anything else.
She had put out feelers in 2016 to various college coaches to come watch her as she played AAU basketball.
San Diego Christian College coach Irvin Jerry responded and watched her play in a tournament.
He reached out and eventually made her an offer to come play for him in San Diego.
But that offer disappeared when Jerry was let go from the college and Valencia was left in limbo.
Eventually she received an unexpected text from a number she didn’t recognize but there was a familiar offer on the other end.
“I got a random text and his name wasn’t in there and it was a random number,” Valencia said. “I didn’t have any offers, so I was like OK I want to hear about the program.”
So the texter called her and Valencia heard a familiar voice on the other end. It was coach Jerry extending an offer to still play for him, this time in Illinois.
And sight unseen, Valencia accepted his offer.
She eventually flew out to visit the campus and said it was where she wanted to end up.
Valencia said she hasn’t had a chance to meet her teammates yet, but there will be two people there with whom she can relate.
Two Gavilan sophomores recently accepted offers to play for Trinity, both of whom were coached by Eric Nelson who is also Valencia’s AAU coach.
Valencia didn’t always know she was going to play at the college level.
She started out playing recreation basketball in the third grade but finally moved to competitive basketball in middle school.
There she began to develop, but even then, Valencia said she wasn’t sure if she would continue.
She reluctantly went to a camp held at Christopher being hosted by Pierce.
Her brother made the introduction, but Valencia said she was nervous because she heard Pierce like to work his players pretty hard.
But she fell into the groove and found she could do the workouts that Pierce demanded.
“In middle school, I didn’t have much direction, but when I met coach Pierce you could say my whole future changed,” Valencia said.
Those workouts got even tougher as time went on as Pierce demanded excellence from her. Eventually, Coach Casey started a fitness program that involved work on the track, including running and pushing sleds.
Valencia said she started to work harder than she had ever worked in her life.
Even with an offer that she was thankful to receive, she said during her thank-yous to her family, friends, teammates and coaches that she still fights feeling uncertain about the whole thing.
But it is advice from her twin sister Athena that is keeping her going through the process.
“You don’t know where you’re going to go or what you’re going to do unless you go for it,” Athena said. “I know you’re not always 100 percent on every decision, but you have to at least try.”
And with that and a few more thank yous and a selfie with coach Pierce (at Pierce’s request), she signed her letter of intent.
Just like Valencia has through out her time at school and on the court, she did it with those closest to her looking on with pride and a few tears as well.

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