Come on ref! You’re missing a good game!” said the custodian, implying at least partial blindness by the referees at the CSUN-Utah Valley State basketball game. The man, who had earlier accompanied Northridge’s Jonathan Heard while he practiced, proceeded, “You blew that one!”
The custodian, along with 1,000 other fans attending the game were voicing their disapproval after a no-call following Heard’s missed dunk-attempt on a breakaway. It appeared there had been a foul on the play.
“He hit my whole wrist,” Heard said later. “I was mad about that.”
Yet, the team captain said nothing to the ref about it. He has a calm demeanor when it comes to that, much like the way he approaches a game on game day. A day in the life of this college star athlete is not as flashy as one might think. On contraire, it’s full of hard work.
Heard was born August 6, 1986 in Culver City, Calif. He grew up in a church environment and starred in high school as a Dorsey Don. He turned down offers from schools such as UC Irvine and Texas Tech so he could come to CSUN on a full scholarship and stay close to his mother. The journalism broadcast major broke into the top ten of Northridge’s all-time leading scorers this season and is now seventh with 1,219 points. His career as a Matador has brought attention to the basketball team, as well as a reporter to his door.
It was 8 a.m. Dec. 5 and Heard awoke to my phone call before I was to tag along with him throughout the day to report on his activities. The 6-foot-6 senior invitied me into his Granada Hills home, then went back into his room to get dressed and shake off the sleepy look on his face. Twenty minutes, a jacket and some shorts later, Heard drove off in his Ford Explorer to begin his day.
After buying a hearty breakfast – two donuts from Winchell’s – Heard headed to campus. While on his way, he used his cell phone to text. He also talked about his high school basketball days and then texted some more. He used his Sidekick 3 the way Tim Duncan uses the backboard, often and with expertise.
His weight training class, the only one of the day, ended at 9:50 a.m. After a brief chat with assistant coach Louis Wilson, he announced what he planned to do next.
“I’m about to go home and lay around,” he said.
Back at the game, the Wolverines hit a flurry of three-pointers. What once had been a 14-point Matador-advantage quickly dwindled down to a 50-47 lead midway through the second half. Heard, sweaty and breathing hard, sat on the bench. He was having a rough night from the field and free-throw line. His first-half highlight-reel dunk was now forgotten in his grimace, the result of a badly-missed floater. Heard addressed the huddle with energy and urged them on.
“This season we have depth more than anything,” Heard had said earlier. “I’m not carrying this team. We have a lot of people that can step up.”
And as if honoring the statement, Heard’s teammates produced a 12-4 scoring run with their captain still looking on from the bench. A climaxing three-pointer sent Heard up off his seat as the Wolverines scrambled off the court, looking for answers with a timeout.
“That’s how we do it!” yelled someone from the bleachers.
“That’s how he does it. He sleeps all day,” said Rob Haynes, Heard’s roommate, who had just arrived home. It was noon and Heard had grown “tired” of lying around in his living room watching television and using his phone, so he’d gone to his room to take a nap. Sleeping is one of Heard’s favorite activities, in addition to texting. The family-oriented undergraduate does not have time for much else in-between basketball and school.
Jonathan’s defense had more than made up for his offensive struggles. He waved his arms up and down, yelled in his rival’s face and stuck to him as if he was his dermatologist. He checked into the game for the last time. There was 1:38 left in the game and Utah Valley was still within striking distance. The home crowd roared “defense!” as Heard met the Wolverines’ point guard at half court.
“So, he’s following you all around, huh? Don’t you feel like an NBA player?” said Paul Wayne, another one of Heard’s teammates, referring to me, as I walked next to his captain.
“Not yet,” said Heard with a smile.
It was 2 p.m. and a well-rested Heard had left his apartment again to go to practice. Wayne had met him just as he arrived at Matador Hall, where the Matadome, Northridge’s basketball arena, is located. He had a light practice.
At 4 p.m, Heard was already out on the Matadome’s wooden floor, taking some shots. He chatted with the custodian who would later that night lobby for him -and harass the referee – to get him a foul call. Heard fired, the ball swooshed through the net, and the good-natured man retrieved it for him. The scene repeated itself about 50 times, with a few breaks here and there when the custodian attempted a shot, as well, going three for five from the field.
“Damn, Jayme,” said Heard as he regained his balance while entering the locker room after his personal shot-session. Six-foot-8 Jayme Miller, a starting forward, had playfully shoved him a bit too hard and into the wall as they crossed paths. The seniors have that kind of relationship, one of mutual respect, but of fun and games, as well. It was like everyday brother-to-brother interaction in the Northridge basketball team family.
“Write that down,” Miller said to me. “Heard just got punked?”
If any real “punking” occurred that day, however, it was the one Heard and the Matadors had put on Utah Valley State defensively. The Matadors had held off the Wolverines for a comfortable 76-64 victory and Heard had set a tone defensively, leading the team with three steals. It was 9 p.m. and he now found himself signing autographs for fans. A lady approached him and demanded he shake her hand. He playfully slapped the woman’s palm away.
“You gotta shake my hand,” said Stephanie Johnson, Jonathan’s mother, who was sporting a homemade Jonathan Heard-shirt. Then she laughed and teasingly slapped her son on the head.
“I’m a momma’s boy,” Heard said. “She’s the only one that’s been there for me through thick and thin.”
Once his mom went home, Heard got his groove on.
“Yeeeeah,” he said while “busting” a couple of respectable (non-basketball) moves He was now hanging out with Miller, former Matador teammate Keith Everage, and two nice ladies. Miller’s truck was emitting rap music and Heard wasn’t shy to display some conservative overtime footwork in the chilly night air. After getting warm, he headed home.
“I go to school. I practice from 2 to 4:50 p.m.,” said Heard, answering some final questions back at his apartment. “I got weight training from 5 to 6 and then mandatory study hall from 8 to 10. It’s non-stopping, that’s why when I have some spare time?I sleep. That’s the best and only thing I can do. I catch up on that and also do homework.”
He had done his homework for the day already. He had made his mother “very proud,” put up with a journalist for over 13 hours, and helped the Matadors to a 6-1 record. By 11 p.m., he had already gulped down dinner and showered. Roommates Rob Haynes and Calvin Chitwood had also arrived home. Heard, still sleepy-faced as he’d been throughout the strenuous day, got ready to finish the day on a high note with his favorite pastime.
‘I’m going to sleep,” he said while still on his Sidekick. “It’s been a good day.”