After nearly four years, Irma Munoz’s time as a Chapman women’s basketball player is running out. For her family, friends and coach, that time won’t be easily forgotten.
Coming from East Los Angeles to Orange County, Munoz experienced culture shock. In East Los Angeles, the educational and career opportunities were very limited, Munoz said. At Chapman, it was completely different. There were more opportunities, a higher level of academics and a new sense of community.
Munoz said she owes everything to the basketball program at Chapman and head coach Carol Jue.
Jue, who has coached Munoz for four years at Chapman, said they share “a special bond.” They are both from East Los Angeles and had a similar experience transitioning to Orange County.
To Jue, Munoz is like family.
“I’m hard on (Munoz) because I see her as a daughter and I want what is best for her,” Jue said. “(She has the) greatest potential. She is going to do really well because she has worked really hard. I’m going to miss her.”
A strategic and corporate communication major, Munoz already has a job lined up after the season ends, as she graduated early. Munoz finished all her academics in the fall and earned a position as a district manager at Aldi, a grocery chain company, after interning there for 10 weeks.
With two regular season games remaining, Munoz is a key part of a historically good team. Chapman is tied for the 10th longest winning streak in Division III with 14 straight wins, and is first in the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference.
“I have mixed emotions,” Munoz said. “One is that I’m ready to move on, because of how the season is going. It’s a great way to go out. (The second emotion is) I’m not ready because it’s all I’ve known for the past eight years. I love learning, I love school. I would do it all over again if I could.”
But by finishing her education early, Munoz said she has been able to spend time with her family.
“I’m actually adopted,” Munoz said. “My parents are more than happy with what I’ve done here at Chapman. They let me do all the groundwork while I was here, so for them, it was just a proud feeling because they knew I had it in me.”
Munoz said her family is always around.
“(They) make a point to come to all my games and any other special events around campus,” Munoz said.
Her siblings, aged 4 and 5, are her biggest fans at every game, she said.
Munoz’s teammate and friend, senior shooting guard Jaime Hum-Nishikado, is one of the two other seniors on the roster, along with center Sydney Olivier. Hum-Nishikado and Munoz were roommates during their sophomore and junior years.
“We both like to watch ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Scandal,’ but we didn’t have cable at the time, so we planned our Fridays to eat lunch and watch the recordings together,” Hum-Nishikado said. “It’s been so much fun to play basketball with Irma. Just being freshmen together and going through the ropes with coach (Jue), getting to know our system – knowing that I’ve always had her to lean on has been great.”
As Munoz’s final days as a Chapman basketball player draw near, her focus is on the team.
“(I am going) to do absolutely everything that is asked of me for my team,” Munoz said. “It really (has been) such a blessing to eat, sleep and play basketball.”