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Eastern Washington University Basketball

‘It’s just indescribable’: Eastern Washington’s game against Gonzaga will be special moment for Loera sisters

Former Gonzaga guard Jessie Loera reacts as she is embraced by her sister Jamie during Gonzaga’s Senior Night on Feb. 15, 2020.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

A few years ago, when Jamie Loera’s college career appeared to be over, Lori Loera figured the days of regularly watching her daughters play college basketball were done.

It had been a lengthy run, considering how little overlap there was in the playing careers of Jordan Loera (2011 to 2016 at Oregon), Jessie Loera (2016 to 2020 at Gonzaga) and Jamie Loera, who played at Arizona State – but dealt with injuries – from 2018 to 2021.

But after taking a season off in 2021-22, Jamie Loera decided she still wanted to play – and that she would transfer to Eastern Washington, a 1-hour, 15-minute drive from the Loera home in Moses Lake.

“We thought it was already over,” Lori Loera said. “Then when Jamie came back, it was just a bonus. And when she decided to play again (this year) it was another bonus.”

On Wednesday, Eastern Washington (4-1) hosts Gonzaga (6-2) in the 48th meeting between the women’s basketball programs. Gonzaga leads the series 35-12 and has won the past 17 matchups; Eastern’s last win came in 2003.

There will be plenty of Loeras at Reese Court for this game, cheering with a strong bias toward the Eagles.

“I’ve been a GU fan forever,” Lori Loera said. “But now I’m an Eastern fan.”

Jamie Loera isn’t the only reason for her mother’s expanded fandom: Jordan Loera has been an assistant coach for the Eagles during all of Joddie Gleason’s three years as head coach.

The Loera reunion has coincided with a renewal of the program’s success: After winning 19 games a year ago, when Jamie Loera was named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, the Eagles are off to a 4-1 start this season, with Loera leading the team in minutes, assists and steals.

“Having my sister as coach is already one of the biggest blessings (of coming to Eastern),” said Jamie Loera, now a graduate student. “But being close to home and family has been (too), just because I know how much support I get from my family. I know they’re going to be at every game.”

It’s been a blessing for her older sister, too.

“It is just indescribable,” Jordan said of coaching Jamie, eight years her junior. “She is just growing up, and it’s cool to see. I get to see her grow as a woman and as a basketball player.”

‘Always around the game’

That Javier and Lori Loera raised three Division I basketball players was more a product of circumstance than it was the fulfillment of a particular goal.

They were just always around basketball, right from the start. Lori and Javier met while playing basketball, and once they had Josh, their oldest child and only son, they would bring him along in his car seat for early morning games.

“We were just always around the game,” said Lori, who also played at Oregon. “And the kids were always around the game.”

The family is also highly competitive, Jessie said.

“Anything that had to do with a ball in our hands, or any sport – volleyball, basketball, badminton – any way we could be competitive with each other is the gist of our get-togethers,” Jessie said, referring not just to her siblings but her many cousins, too. “That’s just how we’ve always been.”

Jordan was the first to head off to college, and during her four seasons at Oregon she played in 112 games, starting 45. After graduating, she coached high school basketball for a few years until she took a job at Southern Utah as a graduate assistant.

When Gleason was hired at EWU in 2021, Loera reached out because Gleason had coached with one of her former teammates.

“Coach Joddie was awesome for taking a chance on me, not really knowing who I am, but in the end we’re starting Year 3 together,” Jordan Loera said. “I didn’t expect to come home this soon, but I knew I wanted to coach, and being around family, this was the perfect place to do that as well.”

That Jamie followed a year later was organic, Jordan said, though the connection between them made the process easier.

“Jordan has been such a role model to me my whole life, and with our age difference, I’ve always looked up to her as a mentor,” Jamie said. “That level of respect carries over into this relationship as a coach and a player.”

The eight-year gap between Jordan and Jamie meant they never played competitively together, but Lori said they are much alike in how they play and how they think about basketball. It isn’t a coincidence that each of them – like their sister Jessie, who ranks fifth on Gonzaga’s all-time assists list with 445 – gravitated toward playing point guard.

“I think we all wanted the ball in our hands, and all of us could agree that we really wanted to score,” Jamie said. “But setting up teammates was another part of our game, too.”

Jamie and Jessie, who are two years apart, played together for two years in high school. In 2016, they led Moses Lake to a fourth-place finish at the State 4A tournament when Jessie was a senior and Jamie was a sophomore.

After playing 125 games – and starting 50 – at Gonzaga, Jessie Loera spent the past two seasons playing basketball in Switzerland and Germany. She plans to go back to Europe in January.

“Right now, it is nice to have a small break, but I’m looking forward to going back,” Jessie said. “I’m going to play until I know I’m ready to hang it up.”

In the meantime, Jessie has been working as a substitute teacher while also practicing with the GU women’s team as a scout player.

“It makes me miss playing college ball so much more being in the Kennel and being surrounded by the coaches,” Jessie said. “But it does make me feel old seeing all my freshmen all grown up.”

One perk of being around this time of year was that, for the first time in many years, Jessie and all her siblings were around for Thanksgiving.

Jordan and Jamie flew back from Texas – where Eastern had defeated Tarleton State the night before – in time for family dinner that day, while Josh and his family, and Jessie and her husband, drove over from Spokane.

But in many ways their Thanksgiving gathering was not unique, what with everyone now based within a couple hours of each other. It makes the Loeras a frequent presence not just in the stands at Reese Court but in the Spokane gyms where Josh’s daughters play youth basketball.

“We do get together on Thanksgiving and Christmas like a lot of families do, and we’re also together on a random Saturday,” Jordan said. “That doesn’t get past us at all: that it is really special to have your people close by.”