Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interview with Coach Joey Ramirez on Zalmico Harmon

Joey Ramirez is the Ventura College Head Coach for the men's basketball team.  He just completed his second year as the head coach at Ventura College, after two years as an assistant.  He led the Pirates to two State Playoffs appearances and the Western State Conference championship this past season.  Along with Ventura College Women's Basketball Head Coach Ned Mercetic, Ramirez runs the We Play Hard Basketball Camp in the summer.

Coach Ramirez also had the privilege of coaching 2013 UCSB signee Zalmico Harmon at Ventura.

Gaucho Hoops (GH):  Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Ramirez--Gaucho fans will appreciate it.

Coach Joey Ramirez (JR):  Sure, no problem.  I've been busy with finals and the school year ending, and organizing the offseason basketball activities.

GH:  First off, tell us what to expect from Ventura this upcoming season.

JR:  We've lost some talented players due to graduation, but we have three sophomores returning, so I'm hopeful we'll be competitive again.

GH:  Let's talk about Zalmico Harmon.   Whose game does Zalmico resemble the most?

JR:  I'd have to go with Chris Paul (not that he's at the same level).  He's a leader who can score as needed, plays great on-ball defense, and is a pass-first point guard.  The important thing is, since he's been here, he's worked on expanding his range on offense--his perimeter jumper.  He knocked down 38% of his 3-point shots.  He shot in the mid-80's at the free throw line--he's always been consistent there.  Zalmico also has the ability to get into the paint, because he is so strong.

GH:  It's been a while since a Ventura College player signed with UCSB men's basketball.  Is UCSB considered a desirable school to play for, given its close proximity?  Is this possibly the beginning of a pipeline to UCSB?

JR:  Well, this is only my third season coming up at Ventura, so this is a good start.  Personally, I've always been a fan of the Thunderdome, going all the way back to the Carrick DeHart and Eric McArthur era.  And I've always had great respect for Coach David Campbell [UCSB Director of Academic Affairs and Internal Operations].  I myself played at Ventura College before Pepperdine, so I was already familiar with Coach Campbell, who was an assistant at Pepperdine, (along with Coach Williams).

GH:  Coach [Bob] Williams certainly has some ties at Pepperdine too, with [Pepperdine Head Coach] Marty Wilson, [Associate Head Coach] Mark Amaral, and [Graduate Manager] Jon Pastorek, also being former Gaucho assistant coaches or players.

JR:  Yes, I played for Marty Wilson at Pepperdine...the coaching community is close-knit.

GH:  Back to the Gauchos, when UCSB is mentioned in the junior college circuit, what is said?

JR:  As I mentioned, I've had great respect for David Campbell already, and I also gained respect a lot of respect for [UCSB Assistant Coach] Matt Stock.  Like, Coach Williams, Matt was very honest and upfront with what UCSB was looking for from its student-athletes.

GH:  What did you like about how UCSB recruited Zalmico?

JR:  Trust.  I trust they will make sure he makes an impact at UCSB, and that he isn't going to be buried on the bench.  Coach Stock really emphasized academics, which resonated with Zalmico.  You see, Zalmico is very unique.  He not only has an unbelievable work ethic on the court, but he is also very diligent in the classroom.  For instance, he's taking 24 units right now [editor's note: that's six classes].  He sees the big picture, and he takes care of business.  He understands there is life after basketball, and he will do whatever it takes to succeed.  When the UCSB coaches told him he could have a basketball manager feed him passes for extra shots outside of practice, his eyes lit up.  I hear [former Gaucho] Orlando Johnson wore out the managers from all the extra shots he took in practice.

GH:  Zalmico will play right away, possibly taking some playing time away from incumbents.  How was his reception from returning players and his observations on team chemistry?

JR:  Zalmico is not one of those guys who walks around with his nose in the air.  He's only interested in finding a way to make his teammates better.  He's a pass-first point guard--a facilitator, so he will contribute to team chemistry.  He'll embrace and run Coach Williams' system; he wants his teammates to feel good.

GH:  Zalmico is from the Washington, DC area, a region rich with basketball talent.  How did he end up at Ventura?

JR:  Zalmico used our website to research our program.  We've got a winning tradition, and he wanted to be a part of that.  He contacted us.

GH:  Does UCSB have a good reputation for taking care of its student-athletes during and after their playing days as Gauchos?

JR:  This goes back to how Coach Stock recruited Zalmico.  Matt was very aggressive in assessing their needs and the benefits UCSB had to offer to student-athletes, both short- and long-term.  He talked about academics, the business end of it after his playing days are over.

GH:  As you might know, the UCSB class of 2012 has several players playing professionally.  Orlando Johnson is in the NBA with the Pacers, James Nunnally is with the Bakersfield NBDL team, Jaime Serna is in Spain, and reserve Greg Somogyi is in Hungary after being the last player cut by the NBA Lakers.  Did that weigh on Zalmico's decision?  Does the UCSB coaching staff have a reputation for developing future pro players?

JR:  Zalmico sees the big picture.  When he attended UCSB games, he knew right away--he saw right away--how he could contribute to the Gauchos.  Ventura had a player who was most recently Big West Player of the Year, James Ennis.  James was a smart player who also had a high work ethic, and who sacrificed personal stats for the benefit of his team.

GH:  Yes, he's a bonafide NBA prospect who is climbing the mock drafts.

JR:  Some scouts are projecting him to go late in the first round, or early in the second round.

GH:  Where does Zalmico get his toughness from?  I mention it because Coach Williams kept using that word to describe him.

JR:  He probably got that toughness from his father.  He's old school tough.

GH:  What negatives were brought up about UCSB from other schools in their quest to sign Zalmico?

JR:  No negatives were brought up.  As for developing players, UCSB coaches emphasized being held accountable, and PLAYING THE RIGHT WAY.  That means understanding roles and expectations, and executing.

GH:  How tall is Zalmico, 6'1"?

JR:  He's 6'0" and weighs 190 pounds.

GH:  That's pretty solid.  Coach Williams described his daily routine.  It sounds pretty rigorous.  He sounds pretty disciplined.

JR:   People often use that description:  he's mature for his age.  He's still a young man, but he's mature.

GH:  Does he like being called "Z"?

JR:  When he first came here, I called him "Zalmico".  But over time, people just called him "Z".

GH:  What are his strengths?  What are his biggest challenges as he transitions to Div. 1 level competition?

JR:  Aside from what's already mentioned, Zalmico is a keen observer of the game.  He wanted to see first-hand what UCSB needed from the point guard position, so he felt compelled to see as many games as he could, once he decided to attend UCSB.  He's an emotional leader--not emotional in a negative way, screaming and yelling at teammates, but in a very positive way.  In my two years of coaching him, I've never seen him become negative at teammates.  He'll push them, but he's a very positive leader, one who leads by example--because he works so hard and his teammates see that.

He was not very vocal when he first arrived at Ventura, but I told him he needed to become more vocal to bring the best out of his teammates.  He is now a vocal leader as well.

GH:  Coach, Zalmico sounds like a great person as well as a great basketball player.  Thanks for the interview, and good luck next season.

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