For sophomore Matador hoops star Jonathan Heard, family, faith, his parents and his new fiance go hand in hand with success on the court.
Heard, who is the starting shooting guard on the 2005 men’s basketball team, is also the leading scorer of the returning Matadors from last season.
Heard was introduced to basketball at the age of five by his mother and began playing at the Crenshaw YMCA. She encouraged him to use basketball as a tool to stay out of trouble, and he would abide, spending the majority of his free time at the park near his home.
“My mom is very inspirational to me,” Heard said. “I thank her a lot for just putting up with me, with all of the gyms and the late nights.”
Heard attended First Church of God Christian School in Los Angeles from 2nd to 8th grade. During this time, Heard would spend three to four hours a day playing basketball, but admitted it was not the priority in his home.
“In order to play basketball, I had to keep my grade point average above a 3.0,” Heard said. “My homework had to be done before I played. It was very strict and very balanced.”
Religion also played an important role in Heard’s childhood. Not only did he attend a religious school, but he also attended church every Sunday, which included Sunday school.
Heard spent his pre- college years at Dorsey High School, which he said was not a positive environment. He said he used basketball to keep his concentration.
“I had to keep myself focused by playing basketball,” Heard said. “I stayed in the gym, which kept me from hanging out with the wrong crowd or out doing bad stuff.”
Heard said his high school basketball team was close, almost like a family.
“We were always doing things together,” Heard said. “We would go to parties together (and) go out to dinner and just hang out.”
Besides his mother, Heard has another very important woman in his life: girlfriend of two years and now-fiancee Erin Johnson, biochemistry major at CSU Los Angeles.
Heard and Johnson were engaged over the summer when he proposed to her at his home. Heard said he felt like it was something he needed to do, and felt like he could make the long-term commitment, although a wedding date has not been set.
“Between her and my mom, they keep me motivated and focused,” Heard said. “(Erin) makes sure I don’t get too big-headed and makes sure I do my homework first. She is like another mom while I am at college.”
Heard had a strong senior year in high school basketball. His team went 10-0, made it to the semifinals and was part of the best team to ever come out of Dorsey.
Heard said he believed that high school basketball prepared him for college basketball, especially the conditioning aspect. Heard’s high school basketball coach, Kevin Gibson, instilled similar methods that Matador head coach Bobby Braswell teaches.
“Coach Gibson prepared me for college,” Heard said. “He prepared me for the yelling, screaming, hard work, and dedication, and when I got to college, I realized it was similar to high school.”
Heard’s most reassuring memory from high school basketball was during his senior year when he hit a game-winning shot against Crenshaw, and the team and the fans ran onto the court and surrounded him in celebration.
During his freshman year, Heard said he loved the freedom that came along with being a college student, but recognized the responsibility that came with it. Heard said it was his own responsibility to make his schedule, get up on time for class, ate properly and make sure he did his homework on time.
Living in the residence halls is something that Heard had to get used to. He said it is mandatory for players to live in the dorms their first two years, but said he would like to move out next year. His roommates, who are also teammates, are sophomore Calvin Chitwood, freshman Ryan Walton and junior Austin Waggener.
“It is nothing but fun and comedy in our room,” Heard said. “We play a lot of video games like Madden (football) and NBA Live, and it can get very competitive.”
Not only did Heard have to adjust to school life, he had to adjust to life in terms of basketball at the NCAA level too. Heard said he was surprised at the amount of work and dedication that college athletes put into their sport.
“There are a lot of college players that are on another level,” Heard said. “If you are not prepared or are not willing to train properly, you will not make it to that level.”
The hardest transition for Heard was adjusting to Coach Braswell and the system that he installed. Heard said that the amount of plays he implemented was the hardest thing to learn at CSUN. In high school, Heard’s team had only a few plays, whereas at Northridge, there are a lot more.
Heard’s freshman year was a productive one, as he was named to the Big West All-Freshman team, averaging 9 points and 3 rebounds, and ranked tenth in the Big West Conference in steals.
Heard said he learned the most from former Matador Joseph Frazier, who taught him to practice hard every day and that it would ultimately pay off.
“Joe was always defense first, and he did not care about the scoring,” Heard said. “It was always just going hard, going for loose balls and doing the little things.”
CSUN went 18-13 overall with a 12-6 record in conference, and for the second year in a row, lost a heartbreaker to the University of the Pacific in the Big West tournament.
“The loss was very devastating because we believed then, and still do, that we are the better team,” Heard said. “But we played our butts off and things just (did) not go our way.”
The 2005 season starts with an exhibition game Nov. 3 at the Matadome. The team’s first regular season game is Nov. 20 at USC. The Matadors first regular season home game is Nov. 22 against Tulsa.
Heard said he is very anxious for the season to begin.
“I know for a fact that we are going to have one of the best seasons Northridge has ever seen,” Heard said. “We will have a winning season because we have so much talent.”
Even though Heard is the leading returning scorer, he is more focused on other aspects of his game. He said he wants to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and is less concerned with leading the Matadors in scoring this season.
“Defensive Player of the Year is very possible for Jonathan,” said Coach Braswell. “He has the tools to do it, but he understands that things will be harder. He has worked hard and has improved his game.”
Basketball is not the only thing on Heard’s mind; he is a journalism major who has dreams of becoming an analyst if not to go to the NBA or play overseas.
Heard knows, however, that the most important thing, especially to his parents, would be to graduate from college.
“They would love to see me graduate before (anything else),” Heard said. “That would be their proudest moment.”
Earlier in the semester, the Matadors played three exhibition games in Canada, finishing the trip with a 2-1 record.
When asked about his thoughts on the upcoming challenges of the 2005 season, Heard was quite confident with his response.
“I can guarantee we will win our conference this season,” he said.
Justin Satzman can be reached at email@example.com.