Olivia Vezaldenos left her “dream school,” and now she dreams to play basketball professionally.
The 2016 East Union graduate attended UC Irvine for a year but got the itch to play ball again. So, she returned to Northern California and turned in a standout season for Chabot College in Hayward.
Now, her college journey will take her farther north.
The two-time Manteca Bulletin All-Area MVP has signed with Concordia University-Portland on a full-ride scholarship with an eye on a possible future as a pro.
“(Concordia coach Sean Kelly) knows a lot of coaches from international teams overseas and has sent a few girls over there,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for me in college and after college.”
Concordia is a NCAA Division II school that competes in the Great Northwest Atlantic Conference. The Cavaliers finished 14-14 overall this past season.
A California girl to the core, she picked Concordia over Westmont of Santa Barbara and Humboldt State, among others. The opportunity to join Concordia came out of the blue, and though it wasn’t her first choice it ended up being what she felt was the best choice.
“On my visit we had a lot of time to talk about what type of team they have,” Vezaldenos said. “Coach Kelly said they have a solid team coming back, including an all-conference player. They have a lot of height, but the No. 1 thing they were lacking was as shooter. It was a perfect fit for me.”
Vezaldenos’ busy summer included visits to several four-year universities including one in Texas, and she took a vacation trip to Oceanside somewhere in between.
While en route to Texas, she received a text message from Chabot coach Mark Anger, who informed Vezaldenos that Concordia is interested in her services. Anger just so happened to be at a tournament in Southern California with a friend who was on the phone with Kelly.
She then flew out to Portland in May and came away pleasantly surprised.
“I love California,” Vezaldenos said. “Coming from UC Irvine, I love the beach and the beautiful weather; that’s why I wanted to go to Westmont so bad — that was my No. 1 choice. I went into it with an open mind and I liked it a lot better than I thought. After talking it over with my dad (Matthew), I thought it was the place I need to be.”
Vezaldenos committed shortly after and signed in June. Last weekend, her family hosted a party to celebrate the occasion.
Vezaldenos has picked up where she left off as a senior at East Union despite taking a year off from the hardwood. She worked out with the UC Irvine women’s basketball team in the spring of 2017 and began reaching out to community colleges.
In need of a point guard on his young team, Anger quickly responded.
At Chabot, she led an all-freshman lineup to a second-place finish in the Coast-North Conference, and the Gladiators finished 23-6 after getting eliminated in the second round of the California Community College Athletic Association Northern California Regionals.
Vezaldenos was named to the all-state and all-conference teams, averaging 19.2 points per game while making 40.8 percent of her 3-point attempts.
She left East Union as its second all-time leading scorer. In her senior year, Vezaldenos led the Lancers to the Valley Oak League title and was the unanimous choice for All-VOL MVP, averaging 20.4 points, 5.5 assists and 6.4 rebounds.
Following her high school graduation, she opted to go to UC Irvine instead of playing basketball at a smaller school. She has no regrets with the choices she has made so far.
“I wouldn’t change anything I did,” said Vezaldenos, who is studying business administration with a focus on commercial real estate. “There were points when I did question my decisions, but my dad was super helpful in reminding me why I did it. I had a lot to lose leaving my dream school, but I’m happy with how it all worked out.”