Erika Arriaran: Spirited California freshman hoops talent making big strides
It would only seem plausible for young children with asthma to refrain from playing basketball because of the high endurance and extra breathing it requires. For freshman basketball guard Erika Arriaran, however, what started out as “fun and games” on her mini-basketball hoop eventually led to a nationally-acclaimed prep basketball career - junior high, high school and AAU success - that would bring Arriaran to the Forty Acres as one of the most heralded freshmen in the nation.
“When I was younger, I had asthma and the doctor told my parents that I needed to do something active because I always wanted to lie down and sleep because of the medicine that I took,” recalled the 5-10 Arriaran. “So my grandpa bought me a miniature basketball court and my dad would come every night to play one-on-one with me. I eventually started to love the game.”
Erika is the middle of five siblings in a family with great athletic talent.. Her father, Jim, played football at the University of Oregon; oldest sister Briana (22), played volleyball before joining the Army; sister Natasia (21) starred on the basketball court at Cal Baptist University; younger sister Samantha (16) is a standout volleyball player at Norco HS, and younger brother Joe (14) is busy with football.
“Our whole family has been involved in sports our whole lives. My poor parents try their best to manage their schedules around our games; they’ve come down to Texas for a few games, and the rest of the time they’re at Samantha and Joe’s games cheering them on,” said Arriaran.
With the common love for sports, the Arriarans have a tight family bond.
“We’re an extremely close family - we’re like the Brady Bunch!”, laughed Arriaran. “Whenever I go back home, I plan everything around them. They’re the first priority and everything else I need to do depends on if I have time after I finish hanging out with my family.”
And though she thoroughly enjoys Austin, it is because of family that Erika would still choose California over Texas living.
“I love Norco because that’s my home. Aside from my family and friends, I miss the beach the most. I went there almost every day or night. Norco is close to everything I love,” said Arriaran.
Known for her giggles and sly comments by teammates and coaches alike, Erika’s easy-going, free-spirited personality off the court and her long curly hair – her trademark look - set her apart from the six other freshmen.
“Erika has this great spirit about her. She always has a smile on her face and she has a laugh that I tease her about all the time,” noted UT assistant coach Kathy Harston. “She’s been a real great addition to our program. She’s extremely coachable. Erika can take you being tough with her. I know that every time I talk to her, its going to be ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am’, which makes it easy for both me and her to improve her game. She continues to make great strides on the court because of her attitude and work ethic.”
Once on the court, it is easy to see the skill Arriaran has for basketball. Second on the team in scoring (11.2 ppg), Erika has seen action in every game to date, starting in 24 contests. Her overall statistics (40 3-pts, 50 assists, and 34 steals) speak well for the versatility that she brings to the court as a freshman.
“I remember feeling nervous and anxious before the first game,” Arriaran noted. “I thought it would be better as the season went on, but those feelings happen before every game. I eventually realized that before every game everyone else is as anxious as I am, which is a good thing because it means that we are ready and excited to play the game we love so much.”
“She has improved as an athlete,” Harston said. “When players come to college, they are exposed to so many new different training methods and I think Erika’s made a lot of overall improvements. Her ball handling needed some tweaking because of the type of athletes she was going against, but she’s getting better every day and she really wants to improve - which sets her apart from a lot of young players.”
Erika’s willingness and determination are the key characteristics of this talented player who caught the attention of college coaches before even entering high school. She was the youngest player ever invited to the Blue Star Elite Summer Camp after fifth grade, and was chosen as a Street & Smith Honorable Mention All-America the summer after her eighth grade season. Remarkable accomplishments.
“I first saw Erika play the summer after her sophomore year at a tournament in New Orleans. She just had this confidence and style about her. I saw her go off on a team where, in the span of two minutes, she hit six 3-pointers in a row. As someone who loves shooters, she made a very good first impression on me!” said Harston.
But beyond the basketball, Arriaran is just another ordinary teenager. She worries about fixing her hair.
“We never know what color her hair is going to be; every day, I always ask her ‘Who did you hair today?’ joked Harston.
Arriaran loves to shop, admitting “the best thing I’ve discovered in Texas is the San Marcos outlets!”
A self-proclaimed obsessive person, Arriaran notes that “I have these little routines that I always do. For example, when I eat cereal, like Fruit Loops, I eat one color at a time. I started doing tiny things like that a long time ago and they’ve stuck with me ever since.”
That dogged obsessiveness explains her drive to constantly improve. With her first regular season coming to an end, Arriaran looks for even better results as her career progresses.
Putting aside that easy-going spirit, Arriaran turns serious when talking about it.
“I know that personal awards and honors come and go. I just want to win for our team and for The University. That’s why we came here. This year has been really tough, but watch for great things from us!,” Arriaran noted.
And, she will do her part to making Texas Basketball a success as she continues to live off her own personal advice which she mentioned in the Longhorns media guide:
“People constantly fall when they reach the top because they let it get to their head. Always remember how you got there: God, your family, and your friends.”