LODI GRAD READY TO BECOME LEADER
Monica Valenzuela is used to playing on winning basketball teams.
This summer, the former Lodi High girls basketball player, a four-year starter at forward and guard who graduated in 2017, is putting in a lot time to become bigger, stronger and faster six days a week. She is also positioning herself to become one of the team leaders on the Holy Names University women’s basketball team this winter.
“I’m feel like I’m trying to become that leader,” Valenzuela said during a phone interview Thursday.
On top of that, the 5-foot-11 Valenzuela, who is attending Holy Names University on a scholarship, is also enjoying the summer life in Southern California that includes caring for a family member before returning to the Oakland college as a junior later this summer.
Last winter, Valenzuela, a kinesiology major, averaged 6.3 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. In Pacific West Conference action, she had 6.5 points per game for the Hawks. She played in 28 games and started in five. In conference action, she played in all of the Hawks’ 22 games and started in three. In her freshman year, which was 2017-18 season, she played in 27 of 28 games and averaged only 2.6 points per game.
The Hawks’ won-loss record, however, were far from stellar. Holy Names University posted a 3-25 overall record, including a 3-19 mark in the PWC. During the 2017-18 season, the Hawks went 4-24. During her four years at Lodi, Valenzuela and the Flames had a combined record of 75-25.
One of the goals for the 2019-20 season for the Hawks is earn a post-season berth in the PWC Tournament.
“I talked to my coach,” said Valenzuela of a conversation with Hawks head coach Dave Covell during the off-season. “We really want to get into the conference tournament this (season). We sat at the conference tournament last (season) and we talked how we have to get there. We’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”
In her senior year at Lodi High, Valenzuela averaged 15 points per game. During her four years, she made the Tri-City Athletic League’s first team.
Basketball wasn’t the only sport that the former Flame played. She was on the Lodi girls golf team all four years and the girls’ track and field squad for three.
Life is a little bit stricter for the former Flames basketball player. At the end of last season, Valenzuela and the rest of the squad — minus the seniors who graduated last month — took a mandatory one week off from basketball, which came perfectly at spring break.
After the break, Valenzuela and returning players were put into an off-season conditioning program; working on their agility and weight lifting three times a week.
“It’s usually an upper body workout,” Valenzuela said. “It’s really intense.”
Valenzuela admitted she didn’t pump iron during her four years at Lodi High. But being an NCAA student-athlete has changed since the beginning of her freshman year at Holy Names University.
“I picked it up pretty quick,” Valenzuela said. “Now I just love working out.”
How much does Valenzuela love working out in the gym? Living in San Diego for the summer, she lifts weights six days a week. She plans to stay that pace until the start of the 2019-20 school year on Aug. 21.
“I like getting stronger,” Valenzuela said. Valenzuela is also adhering to the off-season workouts that the team has given to her and returning players. That includes a lot of running to build up their endurance.
“That’s the part I’m focusing on,” Valenzuela said. “Get in the best shape that I can before the season starts.”
The Holy Names University women’s basketball coaches, according to Valenzuela, want returning players to be in tip-top shape entering the Hawks’ pre-season workouts.
“They want us to come back showing some progress,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela is also working on her skills on the court. In particular shooting from inside the paint to near the 3-point line.
“This year I need to become more of a maker instead of a shooter,” Valenzuela said. “Shooting, getting quick off the dribble is what I really need to work on.”
Although Valenzuela admits that she loves to “drive to the basket” when there’s an opportunity.
In addition to her academics and the start of the basketball season, Valenzuela is scheduled to start an internship in working with the school’s athletic trainers.
Valenzuela is in San Diego this summer, living with one of her cousins and her husband. During the day, Valenzuela cares for the couple’s daughter, Olivia, who is 2 years-old. When they come home from work, Valenzuela goes to the gym.
“It’s tiring,” said Valenzuela of caring for a young child. “My cousin is working four, five days a week; she’s gone from early in the morning until 5 (p.m.).”
That’s OK with Valenzuela, who is determined to become a better leader. The summer workouts, she feels, will pay off.
“I’m motivated, especially this year,” Valenzuela said. “We haven’t been doing well, as well as we want to.”
Valenzuela has adjusted well to life as an NCAA college student-athlete. She carries a 3.4 grade point average.
“You have to create your own time, be responsible to get things done; especially if you’re an athlete,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela is one of three former Lodi area high school graduates who are playing sports at Holy Names University. Recent Elliot Christian High graduate Bailey Correia will be playing softball, and recent Tokay graduate Sebastian Quiroz will be playing for the men’s soccer team.
Lodi graduate Monica Valenzuela during women's basketball action this past season at Holy Names University in Oakland.
Lodi graduate Monica Valenzuela, right, during women's basketball action this past season at Holy Names University in Oakland.