The University of New Mexico’s Jaedyn De La Cerda wears No. 23 and jams. She does not take flight like Michael Jordan through the air, but her game is just as devastating as his was. Her game is not as much about her or the city of Roswell, but who she plays for.
De La Cerda does her damage in a more heartbreaking way. This 5-foot-6 dynamo jams by the way she plays the game. Opponents match up with her on the floor and think to themselves, there is no way she scores on me today.
That might be true, until fans go to a Lobos girls’ basketball game, and see De La Cerda take flight in a different way. It doesn’t take long for the TV announcer to say, “De La Cerda pump fakes a jumper, puts the ball on the floor, goes behind the back and shoots a floater in the lane just above the outstretched arm of a defender for two points.”
In less than a minute, De La Cerda catches a pass from Aisia Robertson in the corner and we have lift-off from three-point land as she shoots the ball in a catch-and-shoot motion hitting nothing but net.
Opposing fans shake their heads and wonder how De La Cerda did that. De La Cerda just smiles and turns to run back down court, lifting the OK sign to signal high above her head the three-point shot is good.
In a season where the Lady Lobos were picked to finish second in the Mountain West Conference, they ended up going a disappointing 15-17 and 6-12 in the conference. The team was bounced in the first round by Nevada, 74-64, in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament. De La Cerda was the team’s leading scorer with 20 points.
“We had a difficult year,” De La Cerda said, “it was really challenging, but everyone stayed together. We have never really had a season like this.”
Since her freshman year, De La Cerda has been on a mission to make a statement about her game. Her freshman year, she saw action in 13 games, playing 35 minutes for the season. She shot the ball 20 times and averaged 1.8 points a game.
Part of it can be attributed to her being a freshman, having to learn a new system. De La Cerda wasn’t the long, lean athlete or quickest player that Lobos’ coach Mike Bradbury recruited when she graduated.
What Bradbury never counted on was the desire and heart of De La Cerda to compete at the highest level and live her dream. De La Cerda dedicated her freshman summer to playing basketball, dieting and hitting the weight room to get better and it showed in her sophomore and junior seasons.
In De La Cerda’s junior year, she had her biggest scoring outburst against rival New Mexico State. She went off for a season and career-high, 26 points, and was 4-for-9 from three-point land. She was the team’s fourth-leading scorer but did that in a role coming off the bench. She was also named captain of the team.
“My transition from my freshman year to my junior year,” De La Cerda said, “is one that I will never forget. I worked so hard for all that and to have it, it’s a big thing for me because I’m going into my senior year.”
De La Cerda feels like her confidence has improved, and that God blessed her with the talent to play basketball. Her goal for this upcoming year is to win the Mountain West Championship in the regular season and tournament. Her personal goal is to be the Mountain West Player of the Year as a senior.
De La Cerda loves living her dream and playing for UNM while being from the small town of Roswell. She loves the fact that her dad, Willie, comes to all of her home games.
De La Cerda plays for those closest to her. She has a tattoo on her left forearm of wings, an angel and roses to remind her of her grandmother, Dolores Sanchez.
“My grandmother was taken from me at an unexpected moment,” De La Cerda said. “It really hurt me and ever since that moment, it has encouraged me to be a better person, better athlete, and all-around type person. I will be adding on to the back of the tattoo, her name, and another piece.”
She also added a picture of her grandfather, Terry (Papaw), close to her heart. De La Cerda had the words inscribed, “I can no longer see you with my eyes, touch you with my hand, but I will always feel you in my heart forever.”
In De La Cerda’s senior campaign of shooting for her goals, she will be playing not only for herself and Roswell but for her loved ones tattooed on her arm and heart.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.