By Aram Tolegian Staff Writer
She’s the second-leading scorer in the CIF-Southern Section and is putting Workman High School girls basketball on the map, but none of that seems to matter much to Evelyn Herrera.
The 5-foot-7 senior point guard with a 26.3 points-per-game average is more concerned about her teammates and having a good time on the court than what the bottom-line results may say.
“To be honest, I love scoring and everything, but points don’t matter to me,” Herrera said.
“Wins and losses don’t matter to me. As long as me and my girls have a good time, even if we get blown out by 20 to a better team, it’s OK. It’s about having a good time.”
Having a good time has helped Herrera become the Southern Section’s second-leading scorer behind Pasadena Poly’s Michelle Miller. It’s also led Workman to a 14-4 record and breathed life into school spirit as it pertains to athletics.
For Herrera, things that would excite your average high school athlete, like oodles of points and wins, don’t impact her nearly as much. Team camaraderie is more important. Her teammates getting respect is more important.
Herrera is guarded about certain aspects of her life. She freely admits she experienced a difficult childhood, but prefers to keep private about the specifics. She doesn’t shy away from talking about her mother and the financial difficulties that led her out of East Los Angeles and into Workman’s attendance area. Her mother attends every game, even if it means missing work. She gets emotional when talking about her father.
“My dad has never been there,” Herrera said. “I get to see him once a month. It doesn’t affect me in basketball because when I play ball, it’s nothing but me and the sport. Once in a while, he comes to the games. He’s part of the reason I go strong on the court because I see a lot of parents out there and my dad’s not there. But I know he’s always around in my heart.
“My mom’s a single mom and she works during the day. I asked her if we could just move here because it would be easier for us. She goes to all the games. Even if they’re far, she will cut off work and go see me play.”
Herrera started playing basketball in the second grade when a teacher told her she should try it because at the time Herrera was the tallest girl in her grade. From there, she progressed to travel ball by playing with the East L.A. Warriors between fifth and eighth grade.
“The coach would put me against a really, really good girl and I would cry and say that I don’t want to go against her,” Herrera said. “After that, I guess I became better.”
Herrera played her first two high school seasons at Garfield. The team made the playoffs in both years. Due to her family’s economic situation she arrived at Workman for her junior season.
The Lobos won 12 games and beat Santa Monica in the first round of the playoffs behind Herrera’s 39 points. This season, Workman has taken another step forward. Just don’t expect Herrera to take any of the credit.
“I have an ASB class that Evelyn’s in and I ask her every morning what she put up the night before if I wasn’t at the game,” Workman assistant principal Scott Cavanias said. “Her answer is always the same – `I don’t know.’ I always have to go to the coaches to find out she put up 28 or 33 or whatever it may be. That’s kind of who she is. She never knows what she scored until somebody tells her.”
Herrera has done her thing in just about every game. Even against a formidable foe like Muir, Herrera scored 25 points. Despite teams knowing they have to stop her and focus most of their efforts on doing that, it hasn’t happened. Herrera has scored 20 or more points in 12 of Workman’s 18 games this season. She’s scored 30 or more four times.
“The most impressive thing about Evelyn is the more pressure you put on her, the more she’ll rise to the occasion,” Workman coach Joe Oronoz said.
“She can’t be stopped. (Against Muir) they had a box-in-one, but this girl has the will. She finds her getaway in basketball. Every stress, everything she’s ever been through, this is her getaway. Every girl on this team and myself have jumped on her back and she has the back to carry all of us.”
As good as Workman and Herrera have been, their run is coinciding with Duarte’s best team in a long while. Workman will have to find a way past the Falcons if its going to win the Montview League. Duarte won the first meeting 79-77, with Herrera scoring 24 points. The teams meet again at Duarte on Feb. 1.
“I’m looking forward to it, but we have other things to do and games to focus on,” Herrera said.
“It would be really big because our school is looking forward to a league title. I know that my girls and I are ready to go all the way. Right now, we don’t do the talking. We just play and see where we go.”
Where Herrera goes after high school could be San Jose State or Hawaii, which have expressed interest. Beyond that, she wants to coach.
Between now and then, it’s all about building more memories with the teammates that Cavanias described as duct-taped together.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” Herrera said. “It’s basketball and what I love to do, and it’s what I want to do when I grow up.”