Anieus Medrano has never passed the eye test as a basketball player where size and athleticism typical go hand in hand. Simply put, at first glance, the 5-foot-10 Medrano doesn’t measure up.
But on the court, Medrano has had no difficulty standing tall, first at Liberty High where his smooth shooting stroke helped him graduate as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,089 points, and then as an all-Western State Conference South performer at Bakersfield College.
Next week, Medrano will be sized-up again when he boards a plane and heads to West Texas for perhaps his biggest challenge yet as a preferred walk-on at Division-I Texas-El Paso.
“It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be really hard, especially at this level playing against everyone at D-I schools where they’re all pretty much 6-5 and above,” said Medrano, who averaged 16.6 points a game at BC last season. “They’re all super athletic and tall, but I’ve been dealing with that pretty much my whole life. It’s just another step up. The guys are all going to be stronger, faster and more athletic, but I feel like I’m going to adapt to it pretty well, once I get used to the environment and stuff.”
Medrano speaks from experience.
He was one of the shortest players on his Freedom Middle School team — standing just 4-foot-11 — and was barely 5-1 when he entered Liberty High in 2013. A growth spurt the following summer helped push Medrano to around 5-9, but there were still question marks when he enrolled at Bakersfield College two years ago.
“We knew he could score from high school, it was just a matter of getting him to play hard consistently, and his freshman season he took a lot of lumps,” BC head coach Rich Hughes said. “He had to sit a lot. He was behind (two-time All-WSC player) Tucker Eenigenburg, and he had a really successful sophomore year, so (Medrano's) first year was basically just learning. Learning how hard he needed to play and learning how to be more productive.”
Medrano grew in several ways during that first year — a season that he averaged only 2.2 points per game in just seven minutes of action per game.
“I’m really proud of the kid because he really matured,” Hughes said. “He had a lot of growing pains when he came to us, academically and athletically, and all those things. He just stood through it, and really bought in and trusted what we wanted to do with him. And we’re just happy that he’s going to get this opportunity because it’s hard to play at the Division I level and most kids don’t understand that.”
As a sophomore, Medrano made at least four 3-pointers in 15 games and scored over 20 points 10 times. He had 30 points and seven 3s in an early-December victory over L.A. Valley and had eight 3-pointers and 29 points in a loss to West L.A. in February.
“Every game, whatever look I get that’s open for me, I’ll shoot it,” said Medrano, who is one of four BC players to sign with four-year schools this summer, along with Shahadah Camp (Park), Jeffrey Lee (Ohio Valley) and Kobe Garner (Eastern). “Coach tells me ‘whatever is open to you, you’re a good shooter, so take it.’
“He knows my range and I know my range, so he pretty much gave me a green light. I feel like I can shoot just past the volleyball lines (about 30 feet away), but he pretty much just let me go because he knew how much time I put in to being a shooter. He trusts me to make those shots. No matter how far they were.”
Although playing time might be in short supply this season at UTEP, Medrano is confident he can make the adjustment.
“In junior college I was the scorer, but I feel like coming (to UTEP), I’ll be playing the (point guard), so I’ll try to facilitate for my teammates, and take shots that are open to me.
"I may not play a lot right away, but I’m just going into it thinking I’m on scholarship, and pretty much working hard every day. If I get in, I get in. But I’m just going to work extremely hard to play. I’m going to do whatever I can to play, no matter how many minutes I get, I’m going to go extremely hard.”