In the twilight of a college career that’s gone by with fast-break speed, Jessie Loera is trying to slow down and enjoy the moments.
There aren’t many left, a fact which struck the Gonzaga point guard earlier this week.
“On Sunday it hit me,” Loera said this week. “This could be our last stretch of home games.”
Make that the last “for sure” home games, said Loera, who hopes to play a couple of more times in the Kennel and stretch the season and her career as far as possible.
“At least past the second round of the NCAAs,” she said.
In the meantime, there are moments to be savored.
Saturday’s game against Santa Clara will also serve as Senior Day for Loera and put her on the spot no matter what happens in the game.
When it’s over, she’ll trade a ball for a microphone offer to 5,000 fans at the Kennel, where’s she’s been a crowd favorite since the fall of 2016.
“I don’t know what I’m going to say, but I know it’s going to be a great day,” said Loera, whose extended family will drive and fly in from her hometown of Moses Lake and beyond.
There will be a lot to celebrate in a remarkable four-year career.
Since Loera arrived, the Zags have won three West Coast Conference regular-season titles and are closing in on a fourth.
They’re also a cinch to make the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight season, making Loera the first Zag to accomplish that feat since 2015.
That also was Lisa Fortier’s first year as head coach, but Loera was on the Zags’ radar long before then.
“She’d been coming to our camps since the sixth grade,” Fortier said of Loera, who was a conference player of the year at Moses Lake High School.
The recruiting game was short and sweet for the dynamic Loera, a first-team, all-state selection by the Seattle Times and (Tacoma) News-Tribune.
Washington and Washington State offered full rides. Loera considered playing for Army, but GU offered a winning tradition, big crowds at the Kennel and short game-day trips for the family back home.
On top of that, Loera embraced the idea of smaller classes and one-on-one attention from professors.
“I could tell it was going to be a great fit,” Loera said.
Loera didn’t lose a step at GU; in fact, she picked up the pace. Instead of redshirting, she served mostly a backup for Laura Stockton but still started 19 games until taking over the point this year.
Fans appreciate her playmaking – Loera is fourth all time at GU in career assists – but love her upbeat approach to the game.
“ ‘Energizer Bunny,’ I think that’s what they call it,” Loera said.
Fortier has another nickname.
“She’s kind of a quiet assassin, but in a good way,” Fortier said. “She’s really caring and wants to do everything she can for the team.
“It’s been fun to see her grow.”
Off the court Loera wants to help others grow. An education major, she was a student teacher in a first-grade class at Bemiss Elementary School in Spokane.
“I love working with kids … especially in special education, I felt like I could have more connection with those kids,” said Loera, who plans to work toward a master’s degree after playing professional basketball overseas.
But that’s still in the murky future.
For the rest of the season, Loera plans to cherish every moment .
When her career is over, Loera hopes fans “appreciate that I love to play from the tip to the end … and that I did everything I could for the team.”
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