by Matt O'Donnell, Times-Herald
When Napa Valley College women’s basketball program went dark after eight games due to a lack of players, it appeared that Ajaloni Irvin’s season was finished.
Instead, Storm head coach Paul DeBolt found another community college where Irvin could conclude her sophomore season.
The only hitch? It was at Mission College in Santa Clara — about a 2 1/2 hour drive from her home in Vallejo.
Irvin accepted the challenge. She averaged 15.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and two assists, piling up about 38 minutes per contest.
“I was pooped,” laughed Irvin. “I just had to fight through it. I just love the game though. I was very driven but two hours per day and five hours on the road total was pretty tiring.”
Irvin said she didn’t recall her exact Grade Point Average for that semester but guessed that she got almost all A’s and one B.
That dedication appears to have paid off as Irvin has committed to William Jessup University in Rocklin and will sign a letter of intent with the NAIA school soon.
Irvin, 20, said she had some interest from other schools like University of Maine at Presque Isle, La Verne in Southern California and nearby at Cal Maritime University, but William Jessup was a great fit because of her major (kinesiology), and she has relatives in Sacramento.
“When I filled out the application, it asked if I played sports and I put basketball,” she said. “One of their coaches texted me and we made contact. I was overjoyed.”
Irvin played basketball at Vallejo High School while she attended Mare Island Technology Academy.
“My parents wanted me to get a better education and give me a good base for college,” she said. “I was able to take some college-level courses early and get everything in motion.”
Irvin averaged just 3.5 points in 11 games for Napa Valley her freshman year but that average jumped to 15.4 points in her sophomore campaign.
“Sometimes it was just me and coach DeBolt in the gym practicing 1-on-1 during the summer (prior to sophomore year),” Irvin said.
DeBolt reveled in his former guard’s committment.
“She refused to leave the college, even when it looked like we wouldn’t have a team,” he said. “She was there every day, even if it was just me and her in practice. And the job she did at Mission College with coach (Corey) Cafferata was incredible. Given a chance, she’ll contribute right away for Jessup.”
Irvin’s game really started to take off at Mission, especially late in the season. She scored 22 against Hartnell, 24 against De Anza and 28 more against Cabrillo.
Cafferata said injuries desimated his team last season so he was glad to have Irvin on board.
“We basically played a few games 3 on 5,” he said. “I think she was our leading scorer in the last three. She saved us.”
Now Irvin’s attention turns to William Jessup. She said the school plans to have some in-person classes with others online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
How does she plan to get there? Well, driving, of course.
“I may eventually move to Sacramento but at first, I’ll be commuting from Vallejo,” she said.