Joey Ramirez is the Ventura College Head Coach for the men's basketball team. He just completed his second year as the head coach at Ventura College, after two years as an assistant. He led the Pirates to two State Playoffs appearances and the Western State Conference championship this past season. Along with Ventura College Women's Basketball Head Coach Ned Mercetic, Ramirez runs the We Play Hard Basketball Camp in the summer.
Coach Ramirez also had the privilege of coaching 2013 UCSB signee Zalmico Harmon at Ventura.
Gaucho Hoops (GH): Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Ramirez--Gaucho fans will appreciate it. Coach Joey Ramirez (JR): Sure, no problem. I've been busy with finals and the school year ending, and organizing the offseason basketball activities.
GH: First off, tell us what to expect from Ventura this upcoming season. JR: We've lost some talented players due to graduation, but we have three sophomores returning, so I'm hopeful we'll be competitive again.
GH: Let's talk about Zalmico Harmon. Whose game does Zalmico resemble the most?
JR: I'd have to go with Chris Paul (not that he's at the same level). He's a leader who can score as needed, plays great on-ball defense, and is a pass-first point guard. The important thing is, since he's been here, he's worked on expanding his range on offense--his perimeter jumper. He knocked down 38% of his 3-point shots. He shot in the mid-80's at the free throw line--he's always been consistent there. Zalmico also has the ability to get into the paint, because he is so strong.
GH: It's been a while since a Ventura College player signed with UCSB men's
basketball. Is UCSB considered a desirable school to play for, given
its close proximity? Is this
possibly the beginning of a pipeline to UCSB?
JR: Well, this is only my third season coming up at Ventura, so this is a good start. Personally, I've always been a fan of the Thunderdome, going all the way back to the Carrick DeHart and Eric McArthur era. And I've always had great respect for Coach David Campbell [UCSB Director of Academic Affairs and Internal Operations]. I myself played at Ventura College before Pepperdine, so I was already familiar with Coach Campbell, who was an assistant at Pepperdine, (along with Coach Williams).
GH: Coach [Bob] Williams certainly has some ties at Pepperdine too, with [Pepperdine Head Coach] Marty Wilson, [Associate Head Coach] Mark Amaral, and [Graduate Manager] Jon Pastorek, also being former Gaucho assistant coaches or players.
JR: Yes, I played for Marty Wilson at Pepperdine...the coaching community is close-knit.
GH: Back to the Gauchos, when UCSB is mentioned in the junior college circuit, what is said?
JR: As I mentioned, I've had great respect for David Campbell already, and I also gained respect a lot of respect for [UCSB Assistant Coach] Matt Stock. Like, Coach Williams, Matt was very honest and upfront with what UCSB was looking for from its student-athletes.
GH: What did you like about how UCSB recruited Zalmico?
JR: Trust. I trust they will make sure he makes an impact at UCSB, and that he isn't going to be buried on the bench. Coach Stock really emphasized academics, which resonated with Zalmico. You see, Zalmico is very unique. He not only has an unbelievable work ethic on the court, but he is also very diligent in the classroom. For instance, he's taking 24 units right now [editor's note: that's six classes]. He sees the big picture, and he takes care of business. He understands there is life after basketball, and he will do whatever it takes to succeed. When the UCSB coaches told him he could have a basketball manager feed him passes for extra shots outside of practice, his eyes lit up. I hear [former Gaucho] Orlando Johnson wore out the managers from all the extra shots he took in practice.
GH: Zalmico will play right away, possibly
taking some playing time away from incumbents. How was his reception
from returning players and his observations on team chemistry?
JR: Zalmico is not one of those guys who walks around with his nose in the air. He's only interested in finding a way to make his teammates better. He's a pass-first point guard--a facilitator, so he will contribute to team chemistry. He'll embrace and run Coach Williams' system; he wants his teammates to feel good.
GH: Zalmico is from the Washington, DC area, a region rich with basketball talent. How did he end up at Ventura?
JR: Zalmico used our website to research our program. We've got a winning tradition, and he wanted to be a part of that. He contacted us.
GH: Does UCSB have a good reputation for taking care of its
student-athletes during and after their playing days as Gauchos? JR: This goes back to how Coach Stock recruited Zalmico. Matt was very aggressive in assessing their needs and the benefits UCSB had to offer to student-athletes, both short- and long-term. He talked about academics, the business end of it after his playing days are over.
GH: As you might know, the UCSB class of 2012 has several players playing
professionally. Orlando Johnson is in the NBA with the Pacers, James
Nunnally is with the Bakersfield NBDL team, Jaime Serna is in Spain, and
reserve Greg Somogyi is in Hungary after being the last player cut by
the NBA Lakers. Did that weigh on Eric's decision? Does the UCSB
coaching staff have a reputation for developing future pro players?
JR: Zalmico sees the big picture. When he attended UCSB games, he knew right away--he saw right away--how he could contribute to the Gauchos. Ventura had a player who was most recently Big West Player of the Year, James Ennis. James was a smart player who also had a high work ethic, and who sacrificed personal stats for the benefit of his team.
GH: Yes, he's a bonafide NBA prospect who is climbing the mock drafts. JR: Some scouts are projecting him to go late in the first round, or early in the second round.
GH: Where does Zalmico get his toughness from? I mention it because Coach Williams kept using that word to describe him. JR: He probably got that toughness from his father. He's old school tough.
GH: What negatives were brought up about UCSB from other schools in their quest to sign Zalmico?
JR: No negatives were brought up. As for developing players, UCSB coaches emphasized being held accountable, and PLAYING THE RIGHT WAY. That means understanding roles and expectations, and executing.
GH: How tall is Zalmico, 6'1"? JR: He's 6'0" and weighs 190 pounds.
GH: That's pretty solid. Coach Williams described his daily routine. It sounds pretty rigorous. He sounds pretty disciplined.
JR: People often use that description: he's mature for his age. He's still a young man, but he's mature.
GH: Does he like being called "Z"? JR: When he first came here, I called him "Zalmico". But over time, people just called him "Z".
GH: What are his strengths? What are his biggest challenges as he transitions to Div. 1 level competition?
JR: Aside from what's already mentioned, Zalmico is a keen observer of the game. He wanted to see first-hand what UCSB needed from the point guard position, so he felt compelled to see as many games as he could, once he decided to attend UCSB. He's an emotional leader--not emotional in a negative way, screaming and yelling at teammates, but in a very positive way. In my two years of coaching him, I've never seen him become negative at teammates. He'll push them, but he's a very positive leader, one who leads by example--because he works so hard and his teammates see that. He was not very vocal when he first arrived at Ventura, but I told him he needed to become more vocal to bring the best out of his teammates. He is now a vocal leader as well.
GH: Coach, Zalmico sounds like a great person as well as a great basketball player. Thanks for the interview, and good luck next season.
Gaucho Hoops (GH): Thanks for taking the interview, Coach. Can we talk about the three incoming signees? Let's start with Zalmico Harmon.
Coach Bob Williams (BW): Zalmico's work ethic is unbelievable. He'll fit right in with current "Benny's" on the team like John Green. Other "Benny's" [Benny = basketball nut--a grinder] include (Michael) Bryson, (Kyle) Boswell, Big Al (Williams), Sam (Beeler), Taran (Brown)... Zalmico has a long history of a high work ethic throughout high school and at Venture College. He works out and is in the gym 6 hours a day. I talked with Ventura College Athletics Director [Will Cowen?], and he said when he opens up the gym, Zalmico is there at 6 am performing ball-handling drills and taking extra shots. Then, he's off to a weight-lifting session, before running more shooting drills, this time in game-type simulations. In the afternoon, it's regular practice. At night, he will come in for extra shooting. Zalmico has the skill set we look for in a point guard. The biggest thing with him is HE WILL DO WHATEVER HE NEEDS TO DO TO WIN [emphasis Bob's]. He can defend, rebound, pass, score off the dribble, or shoot from the perimeter. He affects the game in a wide variety of ways. He has the mindset to be a defensive stopper, and exudes confidence, which is a much-needed piece for our team. Much like [former Gaucho] Derrick Allen, he is charismatic and physical, although Zalmico had more success at the junior college level. The big thing with Zalmico is he has a confidence that teammates notice. At 6'1" and 190 pounds, Zalmico is solid and strong enough to guard either guard position. After his verbal commitment to UCSB, Zalmico attended about five home games, and observed that UCSB needed some toughness on the perimeter. He is a student of the game, and will bring that toughness to the team next season. I also talked with the Ventura Dean of Athletics [Tim Harrison?] and the consensus is Zalmico is a tough kid with leadership qualities. Coach Joey Ramirez is an up-and-coming coach, a great coach who is demanding, tough, and charismatic. He gets his teams to execute.
GH: Let's talk about Alex Hart.
BW: First off, Alex is long. He is also surprisingly a good athlete. He has a very good skill set; he can bounce it, pass it, but most of all, his shooting stroke is unbelievably good for a 6'10" player. He's only 17, and won't turn 18 until December. If he were in the US, he'd still be a senior in high school. You can imagine his improvement will be significant these next few months. Will he redshirt? We hope so. He needs to improve his strength and increase his muscle mass. He will need to adjust to the speed and physicality of the game [at the Div. 1 level].
GH: His high school coach Dino Gini told Gaucho Hoops that several schools were after him. He said he consulted with other coaches, some of whom were former Gaucho players or coaches, and every time UCSB was brought up, the responses were universally positive, and that played a role in his decision to attend UCSB. Sounds like Alex is a good get. BW: Yes, he did receive several offers and we look forward to helping him develop at UCSB.
GH: Let's talk about Eric Childress.
BW: Eric is very skilled, and very fundamentally sound. He's very competitive, a good defender, and a really good passer. He can also drive the lane. He was highly recommended by some AAU coaches, and there were some comparisons made to Casper Ware [former Long Beach State and Big West Player of the Year]. At this point, the one thing he lacks is vocal leadership, but that's something he will work on.
GH: Word has it that most of the players will take Summer Session A off, and return to campus for Summer Session B. BW: Yes, they return in August.
GH: Good, we can revisit the roster later this summer. Thanks for the interview, Coach.
Calling all Gaucholocos! Visit this Gaucho Hoops site to get the scoop on UCSB Men's Basketball. Follow and subscribe to get the latest news on players, games, recruits, schedules, and events. Check out the pics and vids and see you at the games. Go Gauchos!
For any questions, comments, or suggestions, contact us.