A freshman on campus may be the University’s next athletic superstar.
He’s new to La Verne and doesn’t sport a Leopards jersey, but Vincent Gonzales has for years been making a name for himself in the sport of handball.
Gonzales, who hails from Santa Ana, began his handball career at age 9.
At 12, Gonzales played his first Junior Nationals at Venice Beach and took second place. From then on he kept practicing, improving on his skill and game.
“The game takes a lot of hand-eye coordination,” said Gonzales, a movement and sports science major.
He said his game changed dramatically when he was introduced to indoor handball.
“I was approached by Jerry Cruz and given information about the sport,” Gonzales said. “It was then when my father contacted him and I became involved.”
Cruz soon became Gonzales’ manager.
There are different types of handball, including one played on a field and two played on a court.
One uses a big ball and is commonly played on school yards. Small-ball handball is played indoors and is very organized.
“I look for kids that have that interest and ability to move… from the outdoor game to the indoor,” manager Jerry Cruz said. “That’s what I saw in Vincent, potential in him to take it up to the next step, from street to court.”
Gonzales cranked it up a notch when at 15 took first place in the U.S. Open Handball Tournament.
However, with the start of high school, Gonzales had much more on his plate.
Gonzales attended Santa Ana High School, where he played football and ran track.
“He continued to play handball, but his studies and other sports took a lot of time and energy, so he didn’t play quite as much,” Cruz said.
Once Gonzales graduated from high school, he found his way back to the handball court.
“I can’t be there all the time, so what we do is when a player goes away to college or a new city, we research and look for local players,” Cruz said. “That’s what we’ve done out there, we hooked Vincent up with the Claremont players, they’ve got several courts there.”
Gonzales practices twice a week for about three hours and has mentors to help him improve his skills.
His renewed dedication led Gonzales to come back and win first place Western Regionals under-19, collegiate bracket, in Modesto.
“I played against San Jose, students from Fresno state and pretty much swept everybody.” Gonzales said.
Gonzales is not only doing what he likes, but he has also influenced others in the love of the sport.
“The sport itself is extremely fluid and very quick, as cliche and corny as it may sound, it looks beautiful,” Gonzales’ friend Eric Fernandez said. “As far as Vince’s skills, they are quite superb with expert technique.”
Gonzales hopes to influence many others here so a team can be started.
His next tournament will be one held four times a year and awards a $50,000 prize for first-place winners.
Gonzales will represent the University of La Verne.
“You can say I’m a professional handball player as crazy as it sounds, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of everyone” Gonzales said.
Gonzales continues to run track and will do hurdles and long jump.
Xenia Martinez can be reached at email@example.com.