Jefferson P. Nolan
Five foot, three inches.
Jonae Ervin may not be the tallest or the most vocal player on the court, but for the Cal Poly women’s basketball team, she has become a giant, and she lets her statistics do the talking for her.
Hailing from Brea High School, the junior point guard boasts the highest assist-to-turnover ratio in the nation with a 2.91 ratio.
“I think that’s amazing to have a teammate be No. 1 in the nation for having the best assist-to-turnover ratio,” redshirt sophomore guard Ariana Elegado said. “(Ervin) is a great passer, and she always finds the open person. She is always driving in the gaps and finding that open spot. It’s just an amazing accomplishment.”
Having started in all 21 games in the 2011-12 season, Ervin tied for first in the NCAA with her assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.67, dishing out 112 assists and committing just 42 turnovers.
But in the 2012-13 season, the main difference for Ervin and for the rest of the Mustangs (16-9, 10-4 Big West Conference) is the absence of former Cal Poly forward Kristina Santiago. Santiago, the first player in program history to earn All-American status at the Division I level, finished her senior year fifth in the nation in scoring, sixth in field goal percentage and 31st in rebounding.
But without the two-time Big West Conference Player of the Year, the junior point guard knows how much her role has changed.
“Last year, we were focused on (Santiago),” Ervin said. “But this year, we’ve been playing together as a team. It feels like we can exploit our strengths. We all have different strengths, and we all share the ball. Everybody can handle the ball. Everybody can shoot. We know who to go to in a given time and who can step up and bring the team energy.”
Elegado has played with Ervin for two years, and she appreciates how much Ervin means to the team.
“Without Santiago, the ball is in (Ervin’s) hands probably 90 percent of the time,” Elegado said. “She’s more willing to take control of the game. Joane has the confidence that no one can stop her. This year, I can tell that her role has changed. She’s that player who can take control of any game, any time, any day.”
In addition to losing Santiago, the women’s basketball squad also bid adieu to three of its top five scorers. The loss of Brittany Woodard to a midseason injury left big shoes to fill for each member of the team. Head coach Faith Mimnaugh recognizes how substantial of an impact Ervin continues to have in every game at the point guard position.
“She’s always been a very good handler of the basketball and someone who prides herself in making great decisions on the court,” Mimnaugh said. “She doesn’t take a ton of risks on the court. She’s very steady with the ball; you can count on her to always go through a game almost flawless in her decision-making skills. It’s an asset that I value and I know the team values. I know that she takes great heart in trying to do that job effectively for us.”
In Cal Poly’s game against Cal State Northridge (13-14, 7-8 Big West), Ervin recorded her fourth double-double of her collegiate career with 10 points and 11 assists as she led the Mustangs to victory against the Matadors.
“If somebody isn’t on their game, someone else is going to have to step up,” Ervin said. “We’re really good about doing that. We can read each other really well and step up and see who is and who is not having a good game.”
Ervin and the Mustangs look to continue their three-game winning streak as they travel to UC Riverside (11-14, 4-10 Big West) on Thursday.
“She was the best in the country last year, and she’s in the mix to be a repeat,” Mimnaugh said. “And she’s just a junior. Hopefully people around the country are watching what she’s doing and seeing that she can be somebody that they consider one of the top point guards in the country.”