The center FLC calls ‘Chief’ has come a long way

Bobcats alumnus has come into his own Year 2 with the Skyhawks

Former Ignacio High School standout and current Fort Lewis College center Alex Herrera’s renewed aggressiveness has led to more dunks, not to mention an average of 13.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Enlarge photo

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file photo

Former Ignacio High School standout and current Fort Lewis College center Alex Herrera’s renewed aggressiveness has led to more dunks, not to mention an average of 13.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

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 Kloster’s 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.

It’s becoming a breakout season.

His secret?

Assertiveness.

Herrera looks much more confident with his post moves, including an improved hook shot, and he’s using his size to get to the basket with a newfound authority.

“I’ve 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 it’s been a matter of the mind for his starting center.

“Confidence. His confidence – he’s always had terrific ability, and I think there’s 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 he’s playing – I guess the word is – with a lot of joy. He’s 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 he’s sent back 33 shots overall in just 14 games.

Fellow center Torrey Udall said sometimes Herrera’s shot-blocking ability even causes the Skyhawks (12-2, 9-2 RMAC) to fall into a bit of a defensive lull, knowing they’ve got a good last line of defense.

“We’re 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 Chief’s man because he’s 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 he’ll pick up some individual hardware, too.

“Now that I know I’ve 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.

rowens@durangoherald.com