Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Roswell’s own Jaedyn De La Cerda has grown up right before our eyes. She’s played on the playgrounds like all the other little kids dreaming of one day winning a state basketball title in high school and then playing for the University of New Mexico.
Many thought she was special, but just how special, no one knew until she lived out her dreams right before our eyes. Not only did Jaedyn score 34 points in leading Roswell to the state title with a 59-41 victory over Gallup, but she was selected the 2016-17 Gatorade Player of the Year.
Jaedyn continues to live her dream while writing it at the same time. It took a lot of intestinal fortitude to keep her dream from becoming a nightmare.
Jaedyn has done what she loves, which is playing basketball for UNM and taking on all-comers in practice and then, after having proved herself against her teammates, she has left a mark on her opponents.
It sounded easier than it was, as Jaedyn begins her senior year. Coming out of high school, she was young and thought she would play right away. She didn’t understand at that level, everyone is good and hungry and wants to play.
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Jaedyn had to overcome self-doubt, a rocky freshman year along with naysayers that didn’t think she was good enough to compete at the Division I level. Her haters thought she wasn’t quick enough on defense to guard players quicker than her.
While she was down, she wasn’t out. During her time of testing, it made her realize that she would have to compete every day for her spot in the rotation and playing time, and it would begin in practice.
“Not playing right away made me go to the gym early and outwork my competition in practice,” Jaedyn said. “My family has always told me that hard work gets you to where you want to go in life. That’s my mindset, to work hard no matter what it is.”
There were times when she wasn’t playing her freshman year, she would call her old Roswell coach, Joe Carpenter. She would tell him she didn’t know if she could do it.
One conversation with Carpenter stuck with her toward the end of her freshman year, and seemed to turn her season and career around.
Carpenter told her to stick it out, and that she was better than what she realized. Carpenter told her to continue to work hard and her chance would come.
He told her she’s the best shooter he has ever coached in his 20 years of coaching and all she needed was to hit a couple of shots and believe in herself and she would be OK. Carpenter also told her that the University of New Mexico coach Mike Bradbury recruited her for a reason.
Jaedyn remembers that her mother, Tara, told her to finish what she starts. Her brother, Deyton, would send her Kobe Bryant quotes and his practice schedule. Deyton emphasized to work hard no matter what she was feeling or going through.
When opposing players looked at her on film, they thought No. 23 wouldn’t score on them that night. Teams couldn’t know when Jaedyn comes onto the court smiling, she was about to get busy and light them up.
Just like another 23 named LeBron James of the Lakers, she gets her teammates involved and lets the game come to her. She runs the court and stands at the three-point line and lets it go. Without watching it go in, she raises her arms and heads down court knowing the shot is good.
On the next play, she fakes the three, dribbles the ball behind her back and does a finger roll. Teams in the Mountain West have had to adjust to her defensively, or she’ll take over the game single-handedly as she did against New Mexico State when she torched them for a team-high 26 points last year.
Jaedyn has scored 620 points in her three seasons and is 380 points away from reaching 1,000 points for her career at UNM. To do that she will need to average 13 points a game in 31 games. She feels confident the records and other honors will take care of themselves if she continues to put the work in.
“It would mean a lot to me to get to 1,000 points,” Jaedyn said, “because of all of the work I have put in. What I am really worried about right now is to actually be able to play and have a season.”
To get ready for her senior campaign, Jaedyn has worked on being a better leader and more vocal in practice. She’s worked on her ball-handling skills, being able to stop on a dime and hit her pull-up jumper.
“I’m just so excited for J,” (Jaedyn), former Roswell coach Joe Carpenter said. “This is her senior year, I think we can expect great leadership and great play from her.”
Over the last four seasons, Jaedyn has grown closer to coach Mike Bradbury. He’s instilled in her to be a good person no matter what.
“The progress Jaedyn has made has been tremendous,” UNM head coach Mike Bradbury said. “Her overall game has really grown, especially on the defensive end of the floor. She has grown into a more vocal player and leader as well. I’m expecting a big year from her this year, she’s worked hard and is prepared for big things.”
What the last two years and her hard freshman year has taught Jaedyn, is to keep going no matter what, and to put the work in. Last season she lost her grandfather and had a game two days later. She ended up playing because her grandfather would not have wanted her to sit around grieving over him. It was hard for her to play, but she did what she had to do.
After her grandfather’s death, Jaedyn had a new tattoo put on her wrist with her family initials DLC. She always looks for her father, Willie, before games and knows exactly where he sits.
Willie sits on the Lobos’ left side closest to the bench in the middle of the stands. If he is not there during warmups, she will look for him at the top of the rail, wave to him and he will wave back.
“My family means a lot to me,” Jaedyn said. “I just got to make sure he is there, it means a lot to me. He drives three hours here and three hours back, it means more than I can explain.”
Jaedyn is philosophical about if this season is canceled, she believes it would give her more time to progress, and work on her game to get better as a player and leader. Jaedyn plans on coming back for her senior year whether it’s this season or next.
She will graduate with a psychology degree. She hopes to play basketball overseas and when she retires, to come back and coach.
“It’s all gas, no breaks,” Jaedyn said. “It’s my last go-round, and I got to do what I’ve got to do.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.