By John Philip Wyllie
Upon her graduation from Point Loma Nazarene last spring, NAIA All-American Jessica Mercado began searching for new challenges. As the daughter of two Dominican Republic immigrants, she had already become the first person in her family to graduate from college when she accepted her diploma in media and communications. But this former San Diego High four-time basketball MVP found that she still had a passion for the game.
After a brief stint playing in the Dominican Republic with its national team, she traveled to Ecuador and then on to Puerto Rico playing all the while, making connections and improving her game. Now back home in San Diego, Mercado will be in uniform Saturday night for the National Women’s Basketball League San Diego Siege (1-1) when they play their home opener at the brand new Harry West Gymnasium on the campus of San Diego City College.
Professional basketball has been an eye opening experience for Mercado.
“I was always used to being the fastest person on the court,” Mercado said in a phone interview from San Jose. “The other girls here are just as fast or are faster than I am. It is amazing to see so many girls that are so athletic and strong. It makes me want to work harder.”
Mercado finds herself in the unfamiliar role as a reserve, but she received playing time in both of the Siege’s first two games. She hopes to increase her role as the season unfolds.
“I am really a no-name (in the world of professional basketball) so it was huge that they gave me a chance to be part of this team. I am just trying to learn from the players that have been here and done this. And I am just trying to stay positive and be there for my teammates. I am not used to coming off the bench where I only get a few minutes, but I am enjoying it. Not everything in life is just given to you. Sometimes you really have to work hard for it. Eventually, my time will come. Even the great ones were not always the stars of their teams.”
Mercado is not certain if she is the only Hispanic player in the league, but she is at the very least one of only a few.
It is important to her to be a positive role model as both a solid Christian and a Latina. She is grateful for the coaching and education she received at PLNU and at San Diego High. She has been back to cheer on her college teammates and she serves as an assistant coach at her old high school.
“I want to show girls in high school and in college that if there is a goal you have, whether it is in sports or in life, you can reach it if you work hard. There are a lot of opportunities out there and women’s basketball is growing all over the world.”
Mercado is equally optimistic about the Siege.
“The chemistry is great here. Once we start playing more together I know we can be the top team or one of the top teams in this league. We have all the talent in the world and everyone came in here in great condition. All we need is more experience playing together as a team.”
The San Diego Siege face the San Jose Spiders Saturday, February 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Harry West Gymnasium located on the campus of San Diego City College. For additional information (619) 398-8399 or visit: www.nwbl.com/siege/