REEDLEY — You don’t see many 29-year-old athletes at the junior college level but Alfredo Jimenez is proving that age isn't keeping him from competing with much younger players.
Jimenez is the oldest player on the men’s basketball team at Reedley College. Jimenez graduated from Kingsburg High School in 2007 and played on the men’s basketball team at Columbia College in Sonora during the 2009-10 season but had to quit because of financial issues.
Paying for his college classes and living expenses in Sonora was too expensive and he moved back to the Central Valley and earned an industrial maintenance certificate at the College of the Sequoias. Jimenez started working fulltime at Cornerstone Packing & Cooling in Kingsburg as a maintenance mechanic.
While working in maintenance, Jimenez worried that he had given up on basketball too soon.
“As I’m working, I had moments where I wasn’t happy with working,” Jimenez said. “I know I'm meant to be on the [basketball court].”
This past summer, he knew the time was right to go to school and play basketball again. Jimenez said he saved money and was financially stable for his return to the court.
He now considers himself a “full-time hooper.”
“Everything was just right,” Jimenez said. “I had a chance to come back, play one more year, give it a shot and see where it takes me. I missed basketball. I love basketball. This is what I see myself doing in the future.”
Being the oldest player on the team, Jimenez said his teammates joke about his age. Jimenez said a referee come up to him and said “good luck to you coach,” and he jokingly responded, "I’m a player.”
“Yeah, they’re not used to seeing old guys in JC basketball,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez played for Kingsburg during the 2006-07 season. The Vikings went 16-11 overall and 7-3 in Central Sequoia League play that year. Kingsburg went as far as the quarterfinal round in the playoffs after losing to Exeter 55-41. Jimenez averaged 11.8 points per game in 14 games for the Vikings.
It was the only year he played at Kingsburg, but Jimenez said his senior year at the high school was the “funnest” he’s ever played. Jimenez played at Dinuba High School during his freshman and junior years and at Immanuel High School as a sophomore.
This season, Jimenez is averaging 13.4 points a game for the Tigers as a guard and forward.
Between the playing at Sonora and Reedley colleges, Jimenez stayed in shape by playing in a men’s recreational league in Lemoore and competed with a men’s travel team.
Several years ago, he met current Tigers’ coach Richard “TJ” Jennings while playing in the recreational league. Jimenez was playing against a team with Jennings, who was coaching at Porterville College at the time.
Jennings asked Jimenez about his college basketball playing experience then.
A few tear later and this past summer Jimenez tried out and didn’t make the team at Fresno City College. He then decided to talk to Jennings and ask to play for him this year. Jennings is now the coach at Reedley College.
“It was a good fit,” Jimenez said. “I wanted to play for someone who wanted me. I didn’t want to show up and try out and for them to not know who I am.”
Although Jennings didn’t remember Jimenez from the recreational league.
“Every once in a while you’ll come across a guy who you see has potential,” Jennings said. “… I’m in the opportunity business. I’m always looking for guys who are looking for an opportunity.”
Jennings asked Jimenez to come to a team meeting and he became a member of the team.
Jennings said Jimenez is the oldest player he’s coached in the junior college level. Jennings, 36, is only seven years older than Jimenez.
After the Tigers season ends on Feb. 17, Jimenez’s basketball quest could go on. Greenville University - an NCAA Div. III school - has shown interest in the Kingsburg alum. Jimenez is also looking to play at several schools that compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
“Because of his age, there is some limitation as to where he could possibly go,” Jennings said. “He’s got a lot of upside. He just has to take care of his body, that’s his investment right there.”
In his final home game at Reedley College, Jimenez scored 15 points against the Merced College Blue Devils in an 83-56 win. Jimenez and the Tigers will close out the season on the road against the Fresno City College Rams on Feb. 14 and Porterville College Pirates on Feb. 17.