WATSONVILLE — Pajaro Valley High School senior Jayleen Solorzano had a record-breaking season during her final year on the basketball team by leading the program to several first-time achievements.
Solorzano added another one of those first to her list by becoming the inaugural athlete coming right out of the high school to sign a letter of intent to play basketball or any other sport.
“It was unreal,” said Solorzano about signing the letter. “I would’ve never imagined that I would have this opportunity. It all went by so fast.”
Solorzano sat next to her mom, Patricia Diaz, inside the school’s gym on Tuesday afternoon as she signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Notre Dame de Namur University next fall.
Dozens of family, friends, classmates, coaches and former basketball teammates, including those who played with her outside of the school’s program also attended the special event.
“It was a once in a lifetime thing,” Solorzano said. “It’s something you’ll always remember.”
Diaz said she became emotional when Solorzano first broke the news to her.
“It was really exciting because she’s the first in the family to do something like this,” Diaz said.
Diaz said it can be a bit frightening knowing her daughter is making big change in her life but she wants what’s best for her.
“We’ve always supported (Solorzano),” Diaz said. “She hasn’t had an easy life, so it’s the greatest pride to see because look where she’s at, now.”
Pajaro Valley High senior Jayleen Solorzano hangs out with friends and former basketball teammates during a special event at school on Tuesday, where she signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Notre Dame de Namur University. (Juan Reyes — Register Pajaronian)
Solorzano led the basketball program to its first-ever winning season — 22-5 overall and 10-0 in Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia Division play — and a postseason berth in the Central Coast Section playoffs this past season.
Solorzano averaged 28.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 steals per game, according to MaxPreps. The 5-foot, 3-inch guard was also named to the Cal-Hi Sports Division III Second Team.
“I’m extremely proud. It’s the first letter of intent for Pajaro Valley High, which is a big step,” said Pajaro Valley girls basketball coach Lupe Quintero. “(Solorzano) is an amazing player, we all know that. She puts in 120 percent and she deserves it.”
Quintero said she hopes this is just the beginning and that the program keeps improving from here on out.
Solorzano is the first athlete — girl or boy — from Pajaro Valley High to sign a letter of intent coming right out of high school, according to athletic director Joe Manfre and longtime track and field coach Andre Avila.
“Hopefully more people will follow what I did and will try to do the same,” Solorzano said.
There have been former Pajaro Valley High athletes that signed with four-year schools but it was after playing at Cabrillo, Hartnell or Monterey Peninsula colleges.
Avila said through a text message he recalls the first graduating class having a good soccer player, Martin Monroy, but believes he went to Mexico to play after high school.
Pajaro Valley High senior Jayleen Solorzano, front left, poses with former basketball teammates and Grizzlies coach Lupe Quintero, front right, during a special event at school on Tuesday, where she signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Notre Dame de Namur University. (Juan Reyes — Register Pajaronian)
Manfre said Solorzano is an all-around great student-athlete and probably one of the best girl athletes they’ve had at Pajaro Valley High. She also participated in cross country and was part of the track and field team.
“(Solorzano) pretty much does it all,” Manfre said. “She’s a great kid to be around and just a pleasure to have watched her go through this whole process from a freshman to now. It’s amazing.”
Manfre believes a lot of the younger student-athletes are looking up to her, including the work ethic she has when it comes to athletics.
“(Solorzano) was a complete gym rat,” he said. “She was in here even when she wasn’t supposed to be in here. But her work ethic is just second to none. If she’s not in the gym, she’s talking about basketball.”
Manfre said it’s going to be fun watching her play in the next level and for her to be around teammates with the same mindset.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
Next up is the chance to play for the Argonauts, who went 9-17 overall and 8-14 in the PacWest Conference this past year.
“I didn’t know what I wanted,” Solorzano said. “And I picked (Notre Dame de Namur) because it has an open gym and I really like the girls, the coaches and it just felt like the right choice.”
Solorzano said she’s really looking forward to playing some basketball, having a successful first year by improving throughout the season and getting noticed on the court.
“I’m just really excited to see what happens next,” Solorzano said.
Editor's Note: This article will be published in the May 17 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.