Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez left Mexico at 16 for hoops
Jorge Gutierrez can still picture the day he began to chase his basketball dreams. He sees his mom, Bertha, and dad, Fernando, standing sadly at home in Chihuahua, Mexico, as their youngest son, then 16, prepared to leave for the United States.
“It was hard,” Gutierrez said.
Barely more than six years later, he’s a fearless, ball-hawking, hair-flying phenomenon. Gutierrez not only counts as Cal’s feisty leader – the Bears take an 11-3 record into today’s game against UCLA – but he also might be the best all-around player in the Pac-12 Conference.
The roots of his distinctive playing style rest in the story of his distinctive journey. Gutierrez moved to the United States because he wanted to play against better competition, and he landed in Denver because other Mexican players had carved out a similar path to Lincoln High.
Gutierrez soon realized the road was filled with obstacles. He spoke and understood no English and was living in a foreign country with three other teenagers (also from Mexico). They often longed for heat in their apartment and food in their refrigerator.
And basketball did not always offer a refuge.
As Lincoln High rolled to the Colorado 4A championship in 2007, opposing teams questioned the legitimacy of Gutierrez and Lincoln’s other Mexican players. One radio talk-show host turned their quest into a referendum on immigration. Fans booed when Lincoln players got off their bus and showed up at one game wearing sombreros.
So it makes sense, somehow, for Gutierrez to play with unrestrained fervor, as if he’s climbing a steeper hill than other players.
“I had to fight for everything,” he said in a recent interview. “Nobody gave me anything. That’s the way I play – nobody gives me anything, so I have to go get it.”
Read the full story at the San Francisco Chronicle