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Angelo Hernandez: From bench player to head coach

Angelo Hernandez’s basketball career took off during his freshman year of high school, when he was given a chance to start after many top varsity players became academically ineligible. He was put in at shooting guard against an elite team and ended up scoring 27 points, mostly off long-range shots. He never played on the freshman or junior varsity teams.

Hernandez joined the Wilson community ten years ago as head coach for junior varsity basketball, as well as assistant coach for the varsity under head coach Andre Williams, who acted as a mentor for him. Williams let him have a lot of freedom, and Hernandez took over as the spearhead of the players’ development.

The two coaches discussed basketball frequently, and would go to clinics to improve their ability to manage the team. After Williams left, Hernandez continued his role as head coach for the junior varsity team, while Brandon Hall was promoted to varsity head coach. After six years as a varsity assistant coach and junior varsity head coach, Hernandez took over as varsity head coach, and has maintained the position for the past four years.

Hernandez grew up in West Philadelphia with his mother, grandmother, three brothers, and many cousins. He attended Overbrook High School, notably the school of the famed Wilt Chamberlain, where he quickly established a role for himself on the varsity basketball team, earning the name “moon ball” for his arching three-point shots.

“Every time I stepped across half court I would just shoot the ball,” he recalled. “I couldn’t do anything else because I was still a freshman and I didn’t want to go inside against these grown men.” As Hernandez matured, he became a more complete player and began to drive to the basket and draw fouls.

Hernandez was ineligible to play during the second half of his senior season as he started to fail many of his classes. “I let basketball get to my head and I thought that people were going to give me something instead of working for it, and it didn’t work out that way.”

Hernandez recognizes that one of his most important roles as a head coach is ensuring that his players stay on top of their grades so that they avoid the mistakes that he made in high school. “I’ll check in with their teachers, making sure when they are at study hall they are doing their homework,” he said. “Homework was the biggest issue for me.”

Due to his inability to play, Hernandez lost many of his scholarship offers, and ended up attending junior college at Clinton College in South Carolina. For the first time, Hernandez was away from home and his grades flourished, allowing him to transfer to North Carolina A&T State University, where he started on the basketball team for four years.

After college, he had offers from teams overseas, but instead chose to begin his coaching career at Woodrow Wilson High School. “Working at Wilson, I think, is the best thing that I’ve done for myself,” he said.

As a head coach, Hernandez has had the privilege of working with a historically talented senior class this season. With multiple players having more than one Division I scholarship offers, Hernandez and his coaching staff have expanded their social media presence in order to help their players get more recognition. “I’ve sent out countless emails with videos, and our social media coverage has risen so much with help from my assistant coach who runs the highlight videos and game film.”

While his ultimate goal is to coach basketball at the college level, Hernandez is in no hurry to get there just yet. As a high school coach, he appreciates his responsibility to his players, and doesn’t like the pressure that college coaches are under to keep their jobs.

“I know at the college level you have to do certain things to keep your job and I don’t feel any pressure here,” he said. “Because they know at the end of the day it’s about getting kids seen and getting kids going to school for free.”

As the basketball team heads into the DCSAA playoffs, Hernandez expects to continue seeing the high-level play that Wilson has displayed throughout the season after a rough start. “I think they counted us out this year because we lost a few games, but we’re playing the way I want us to play right now as we head to the playoffs.”

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