The transformation of Alex Herrera began in Longmont gymnasiums.
The summer after averaging 3.0 points per game off the bench as a redshirt freshman, the Fort Lewis College sophomore took up teammate Cade Klosters offer of a room in his home and a summer full of basketball and working out.
We played in the Denver Pro-Am up there, and we worked with a trainer up there, and we were working out a lot, Herrera said.
The work the former Ignacio High School basketball standout put in turned out to be worth the effort. The 6-9 Herrera went from meager numbers in meager minutes behind former star post Matt Morris to averaging 13.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference-best 2.4 blocks per game in 24.3 minutes per game.
Its becoming a breakout season.
Herrera looks much more confident with his post moves, including an improved hook shot, and hes using his size to get to the basket with a newfound authority.
Ive just been more aggressive, I guess. ... Just taking it strong to the hoop, said Herrera, son of Chris and Kathy Herrera.
FLC head coach Bob Hofman said its been a matter of the mind for his starting center.
Confidence. His confidence hes always had terrific ability, and I think theres a lot of pressure on Alex being a hometown player and the expectations of others I think may have weighed on him a little bit, Hofman said. And now hes playing I guess the word is with a lot of joy. Hes really enjoying being good.
While his offense has picked up, the man they call Chief has upped his strong defensive game. The owner of the CHSAA single-season block record (197) now leads the RMAC in blocks per game with 2.4 a contest, and hes sent back 33 shots overall in just 14 games.
Fellow center Torrey Udall said sometimes Herreras shot-blocking ability even causes the Skyhawks (12-2, 9-2 RMAC) to fall into a bit of a defensive lull, knowing theyve got a good last line of defense.
Were almost relying on it a little too much, Udall said with a laugh. Our on-ball defense has to get better, and people have to help rebound off of Chiefs man because hes blocking everything.
Now, with a sure starting role and a bushel of confidence, Herrera has the opportunity to help the Skyhawks to a league title; perhaps hell pick up some individual hardware, too.
Now that I know Ive got a for-sure role, I know what I need to go out and do, and I can go out and be aggressive, Herrera said.