By Tom Ballato
It has been a crazy ride for Joel Hernandez throughout his career at LIU Brooklyn. In 2016, the Blackbirds were gearing up for a big season, but the season took a big hit when Hernandez dislocated his thumb the first game of the season. That thumb injury costed him the remainder of the season which allowed him to be redshirted.
At the end of the 2017 season, LIU hired Derek Kellogg to be their next head coach. With Joel coming back for his redshirt senior year, the LIU Blackbirds were primed and ready to compete. Kellogg did a nice job adding two freshman and four transfers to a team that already had talent returning.
LIU finished the season 18-17 overall with a conference record of 10-8. They were lead by Hernandez who averaged 20.8 points per game. Their finish placed them 4th in their conference tournament. LIU went on to beat St. Francis and Fairleigh Dickinson and then to face regular season champions of the NEC conference Wagner. An electric game from the start, LIU lead by Hernandez’s 32 points defeated Wagner to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
I talked with Joel Hernandez who recently played for the National team in the Dominican Republic and asked him about his experience at LIU and his professional career thus far.
Describe your time at LIU? What are somethings that you guys are proud to have accomplished?
My time at LIU has been filled with many mixed emotions. I’ve been frustrated, gone through injuries, didn’t get along with past coaches, felt like I should’ve been playing more, but I still met some great people. Me getting an extra year and having coach Kellogg as a coach was the best thing that ever happened to me. We put trust in each other that ultimately got us an NEC championship. That has been my goal ever since I was a freshman and to say that I accomplished that on my last go around is a great feeling.
How was the conference tournament that you guys won last year? You had fight and ultimately ended up making the tournament.
The conference tournament was tough as it is every year. At the same time, I knew what it took because I’ve seen it for five years straight. I was determined to give it everything I had for 3 games. In the semi finals, we were playing FDU and we were down 10. I remember my dreams just slipping away from me. We eventually starting chipping the lead down and we were down by 1 or 2 points I can’t remember, but I got a steal and breakaway dunk and then FDU called a timeout. I have never heard the WRAC that loud ever. The fans played a big part in that win. Then the championship game comes around and we’re playing Wagner who was undefeated at home. A lot of people were doubting us because they were the #1 seed. It’s never easy playing Wagner, but I wanted to win the championship so bad. I played with a different type of animal in me that game and my teammates followed suit.
After you graduated did you get any invites or workouts?
After I graduated, my agency had a pro day where we worked out in front of all NBA teams and scouts then I had workouts with the Suns and Spurs.
Your first year professionally and you are playing in the South Korea. What has been experience been like so far and what are your goals this year?
I’m playing in South Korea for my first year. The experience has been great so far. I’m looking forward to having a good season and making a playoff run this year.