Shooting for Greatness
For this determined basketball player, being good is not good enough.
When Jessica Vargas sets her mind on something, her competitive personality takes over. Whether in the classroom or on the basketball court, she pushes herself to the limit.
Last December, Vargas, a crucial member of the LMU women’s basketball team, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her knee while driving to the basket against a defender from California State University, Fresno. After only nine games, her season was over.
“It was very discouraging, but it may have been a blessing in disguise,” Vargas says. As frustrating as it was to be forced to the sideline, Vargas says the experience put things in perspective. “It literally lit a fire in me, and I can’t wait to get on the court,” she says. “I now appreciate being able to play and the little things like the conditionings so much more.” (The team’s season opened in mid-November, and the West Coast Conference games begin Jan. 15, 2009.)
Known for her hustle and focus on the court, Vargas is just as determined when it comes to academics. She is a junior biochemistry major who has earned a 4.0 grade point average. Vargas jokes about always being a “bookworm,” but the truth is that managing her time and working hard for what she wants have become second nature to her.
Throughout Vargas’ middle school and high school years, her family drove her to and from practices that took place in Phoenix, almost a three-hour trip from their home in Flagstaff, Ariz. Phoenix was the best location for basketball training and recruiting, so the entire family adjusted to eating dinner and doing homework on the road. Getting home after midnight on school nights became an exhausting norm during basketball season.
“If I wanted to do something, my parents found a way to make things happen. They made sure I did it right,” explains Vargas. “My family is very much a part of me. I am fortunate enough to have their guidance and support unconditionally.”
Vargas, in fact, credits her parents for getting her to this point in her life and for instilling values that have led to her success. “My grades and basketball — everything comes back to what I’ve learned and what I’ve taken from my parents. I am a by-product of their upbringing,” she says.
Vargas applies what she learned about commitment from her family to her teammates. “Jessica is very giving and always willing to take the extra time to help out a teammate,” says Lynn Flanagan ’91, the team’s assistant coach. Vargas regularly volunteers to tutor her peers in chemistry and biology, sharing her enthusiasm for learning with others. She also represents her team on LMU’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
After she graduates, Vargas plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in pediatrics or oncology. Until then, Lions basketball fans can expect her to make a difference in every game she enters.
“‘Good is the enemy. Greatness is what we should strive for’ is the team’s mantra this season,” says Vargas, who is healthy, and, needless to say, ready to play. “This is going to be an exciting season!”