The unique family aspect of OLLU athletics
The athletic programs make up one big family, both literally and figuratively. This season, the Saints feature three sets of twins and a pair of sisters across men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s soccer.
Cameron Fields and Christian Fields are twins on the men’s basketball team and account for two of the 16 seniors this upcoming season. Cameron plays point guard and Christian also is a point guard and shooting guard. The Kerrville, Texas, natives joined the Saints in 2018 as sophomores. “We always know where the other person is on the court and growing up playing together is an advantage we have compared to other athletes,” Christian said. The Saints appeared in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) postseason and the NAIA National Tournament during the 2017-2018 season, one year before the twins joined the team. The Fields’ addressed the topic, citing a postseason appearance as one of their senior season goals.
Head Coach Chris Dial first met Cameron and Christian during their high school basketball years. He called the twins to offer them a spot on the team, even though they had committed to Howard Payne University. Following the discussion, the Fields’ toured the OLLU campus and decided to join the Saints. Both enjoy playing video games and Christian picked up playing tennis during the early days of quarantine. Cameron plans to coach basketball after graduating. Christian also wants to pursue coaching and would enjoy being a personal trainer.
Another pair of twins, Jared Embry and Jordan Embry, are also seniors on the men’s basketball team. They both credit Dial for leading them not only on the court but teaching them lessons that can be applied in everyday situations. When asked about the complications due to COVID-19, the Embry twins said, “It’s been challenging having limited time in the weight room and gym, but the team has come together and has figured out different ways on how we can improve.”
The Embrys plan to play basketball overseas when they graduate with the help of the OLLU coaching staff. They noted that Dial and Assistant Coach Dustin Karrer have numerous foreign connections and will aid in their contracts. Jared scored a season-high 30 points in the Saints 138-127 double-overtime victory against No. 22-ranked Texas Wesleyan University last season. Both played at the University of Arkansas-Monticello before joining the OLLU basketball program. The Embrys are both forwards on the court for the Saints.
The final pair of twins that OLLU showcases are Erika Zapata and Jessica Zapata of the women’s soccer team. The juniors are from Baytown, Texas, natives and attended Ross S. Sterling High School. Erika is a defender and Jessica is an outside back for the Saints. They worked hard to be noticed and eventually recruited by OLLU. After playing in showcase tournaments, they committed to OLLU and praised how easy Head Coach Arthur Salazar made the recruiting process. Jessica commented, “We were looking at a handful of schools, but Salazar welcomed both of us coming at the same time and that helped us decide to play at OLLU.”
Erika noted that making an appearance in the national tournament is a major goal for this season. They have both won the RRAC Tournament and are looking to take the next step forward. Erika is a double major in biology and chemistry and wants to go to optometry school and open her own practice. Jessica shares the same major and wants to apply to physician assistant schools and specialize in one field. Both sisters also excel in the classroom, earning RRAC Scholar-Athlete recognition in their sophomore and junior years after earning 4.0s. Erika is also the team’s captain this season. Off the field, the twins are roommates and spend lots of time together. They have the same group of friends and are interested in the same activities.
Dezeree White and Atlantis White are siblings on the women’s basketball team. Atlantis joined the Saints as a freshman this year, following her big sister’s footsteps, who is beginning her third year on the team.
Dezeree is a forward and led the Saints with 6.47/207 rebounds and 3.03/97 steals last season. She also marked 13.6/436 points. She was named the RRAC Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Conference. In February 2020, Dezeree became the first female in OLLU earned NAIA Women’s Basketball Player of the Week honors for her performance during the week of Feb. 18- the only female in OLLU history to do this. Dezeree broke an OLLU record with 10 steals in a game on Feb. 29.
Atlantis joins the program as a point guard. Atlantis commented on her choice of OLLU, “My sister being a Saint was a big factor in my decision. We work well together and Dezeree encourages me on the court.” Dezeree noted the different ways she has been helping Atlantis grow as a player, “Atlantis has to prove herself and make her own name on the team. She plays a different basketball style compared to me and will shine in her own unique way.”
The COVID-19 challenges have affected the academic routines of the athletes. Atlantis has become accustomed to online classes, but Dezeree is a visual learner and prefers in-person instruction. Dezeree has been mentored by Head Coach Stacy Stephens and is learning to help the team as a leader while also maintaining her personal basketball goals. Atlantis is majoring in biology and hopes to become a veterinarian after her time at OLLU. Dezeree wants to pursue a career in athletics, perhaps as a coach.
OLLU has had many twins, siblings and other family members play together in the past. They include twins Gabrielle and Valeria Gutierrez, plus Patrick and Herman Duncan on the cross-country/track and field teams; brothers Clayton and Colton Townsend on the track and field team; cousins Angel and Humberto De La Garza and Erica Robinson and Jose Delgado on the soccer teams; brothers Angel and Luis Flores, AJ and Joel Gonzalez, Marco and Octavio Herrera, DJ and Dustin Kagebein, Hugo and Oscar Plascencia and Luis and Miguel Sanchez on the soccer team; twins Daniela and Gabriela Colina and sisters Damaris and Ruby Coronado and Brandy and Briana Salazar on the soccer team; Juan and Pedro Arteaga on the tennis team; sisters LaQeisha and Shameka Brown on the basketball team; siblings Cela (softball) and Mick Hernandez (baseball); and Kassandra and Julie Ramos (softball). Many other siblings have played on Saints teams, but not at the same time.
The OLLU athletic programs pride itself on being one family, and together with the entire university, are preparing for a challenging and unique 2020-2021 season. The basketball teams will begin first this winter, while all other teams will start during the spring.