City College’s 6-foot sophomore forward Cerina Nguyen shoots over Palo Verde’s Taleaa Knox during their game at Harry West Gym, Dec. 5, 2023. Nguyen was awarded Most Valuable Player after their Knights Invitational tournament victory on Nov. 18. Photo by Sean Monney/City Times Media
City College’s 6-foot sophomore forward Cerina Nguyen shoots over Palo Verde’s Taleaa Knox during their game at Harry West Gym, Dec. 5, 2023. Nguyen was awarded Most Valuable Player after their Knights Invitational tournament victory on Nov. 18. Photo by Sean Monney/City Times Media

PODCAST: From Zoom workouts to playing overseas, the journey of City College basketball player continues

Cerina Nguyen talks about taking her talents to Vietnam after college in this episode of ‘City Speaks’

Cerina Nguyen, a first-team All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference forward for the San Diego City College women’s basketball team, was pivotal for the Knights this season in helping them make the playoffs.  

She led the PCAC in scoring and rebounding, gaining her recognition from various D-II and D-III schools along with scouts for the Vietnamese National Team.  

In the episode of “City Speaks,”  Nguyen talks to host Joe Panek about learning to play at the Kroc Center in La Mesa to her shortened senior season at Point Loma High due to transfer from Seattle. 

Nguyen discusses her time at City College, training through COVID, and getting recruited to 4-year colleges and the national team. 

Can’t access the recording? Click here. Keep reading for the transcript or click here.


Joe Panek  00:08

Welcome to City speaks a podcast produced by the students of City Times Media. I’m your host Joe Panek. In this episode we talked to Cerina Nguyen First-Team All Conference forward for the women’s basketball team. We discuss her journey to City College and what she will do beyond her time as a Knight. Hi Cerina, how are you doing?

Cerina Nguyen  00:26

Good. How are you?

Joe Panek  00:27

Welcome to the show. It’s nice to talk to you. You had a great year this year, you guys made the playoffs. But let’s start with where you started I saw you you went to Point Loma is that?  

Cerina Nguyen  00:38

I only went to Point Loma for my senior year. So it was a little rough. Honestly. Transitioning. So yeah, I grew up in Seattle, Washington. I was out there for 10-11 years. And then I came out here 2012. I went out here for three or stayed out here for three years. It was fifth, sixth, and seventh grade. And then I moved back to Washington. I played at the Kroc Center in La Mesa. That was the really, the first time I started to play basketball. And then I played for one year there and then stopped once I went back up to Washington for high school is when I actually started playing basketball and taking it seriously. I was on the freshman team for two years. So freshman and sophomore year, junior year, I went to JV, and then senior year I played varsity, down here in Point Loma

Joe Panek  01:24

Was your senior year. That was 20, 2019-2020. So you’re kind of having a normal year for the first, you know, three, four months, and then it gets all crazy. 

Cerina Nguyen  01:34

So I left Washington, my junior year. So summer of my junior year, I transferred down here and they told me that I wasn’t able to play until Januar y. So our conference, I was sitting up the whole time, and I had to just keep waiting and waiting. You really barely got to show   Exactly

Joe Panek  01:49

What you could do a varsity.

Cerina Nguyen  01:50

Yeah, yeah.  I only played 10-11 games, if that. I wasn’t expecting to play after high school. Just because I didn’t really play for that long. I’ve only played for four years since like freshman year. It kind of took me by surprise to see how far I’ve developed just knowing that could Dre and then her dad, Coach Bob came to see me at Point Loma and play. So it was during the pandemic. And that was the only tour I got to see. Besides doing virtual I didn’t want to do virtual. honestly felt like it was a good fit.

Joe Panek  02:15

Why did you choose San Diego City College over any other And then you so you come here and in 20 Well, 2020-2021 there was no season?

Cerina Nguyen  02:33

So 2020 we were doing virtual workouts over zoom. Yeah, everything was just over zoom at this point. And then 21-22 That’s when I first played my first season. 

Joe Panek  02:45

It showed that you played 21-22 And then it looked like 22-23 You didn’t

Cerina Nguyen  02:49

I didn’t play No, I took a redshirt season just to get my grades up because the whole COVID like online and then moving back into the classroom. It was tough for me. So I was like, let me sit this one out. That’s what helped the most is redshirting that year and just being able to train with everybody.

Joe Panek  03:05

The way you described it that you only played what a half of Varsity season. 

Cerina Nguyen  03:09


Joe Panek  03:09

So like, you know, you’re really jumping from junior varsity to some varsity to college junior college so quickly.

Cerina Nguyen  03:17


Joe Panek  03:17

 it’s a really fast ramp up to deal with. 

Cerina Nguyen  03:19


Joe Panek  03:20

 And then this year, you came out leading scorer or leading rebounder and all those things. Was that something you were expecting coming in this year?

Cerina Nguyen  03:26

I didn’t really think about it too much. But I knew I was gonna do like big things this year.

Joe Panek  03:32

Your were ready to go?

Cerina Nguyen  03:33

 Yeah, exactly. Just because I was sitting for so long. And I was practicing. And like, honestly wouldn’t have done this good without the team that we have this year, because some of the girls they redshirted too, so they know how I played, which helped obviously.

Joe Panek  03:46

It was kind of like a group of red shirts 

Cerina Nguyen  03:49


Joe Panek  03:49

Training together and then next year is our year and you’re getting ready for to play together made the playoffs kind of you needed that last game. 

Cerina Nguyen  03:56


Joe Panek  03:56

 to get in. And you were able to deliver against a team that kind of handled you earlier in the year. And then you came out and had a great day.

Cerina Nguyen  04:03

Yeah, that game was, It was crazy. Just the intensity was really high think just because it was sophomore night too. We wanted to show out and make it known that we can beat you guys and make it to playoffs.

Joe Panek  04:15

The season ends and you’re preparing for the next step. So just go over what your plans are and then how you came to those decisions.

Cerina Nguyen  04:24

It’s been rough. I’ve had a couple of different scouts come out to the games. They’ve texted me on Instagram. They’ve gotten my phone number from the coach also, I went to sophomore showcase and that’s where I got a lot of eyes on me. I’ve had high or like mid level D two coaches reach out like CSU Monterey Bay, Merced just kind of narrowing down just going on visits, seeing where I fit best and what will develop me because honestly, I think I’m a little underdeveloped because I didn’t play as long as all these other girls have played. So right now I think I’ve narrowed it down to two colleges. I’m going on a visit to Elmhurst University in Chicago, and then I’m still looking at CSU Monterey Bay.

Joe Panek  05:08

What makes those schools something that’s more interesting for you,

Cerina Nguyen  05:12

They’ve just reached out the most, they’re the most consistent. And then like the schooling in general, it’s just the best, like education wise.

Joe Panek  05:19

And then you also have an option to go overseas and to play in Vietnam for what would the be?

Cerina Nguyen  05:25

The national team. Yeah, so it’d be the C games, I’m not sure when that would happen because to get your passport in order to be over there, and like live and play. So it’s basically like a work visa, essentially. But since my dad was born over there, I can just get a passport and live over there for however long I need to be. So that’s probably like a 12 to 18 month process. That’s what the director was saying. He’s from out here. So he lives he lives in downtown. I saw I met with him.

Joe Panek  05:54

How does that process start? Is that something you look into? Or is that something they reached out to you?

Cerina Nguyen  05:59

They found me I think it was because of my last name, honestly, the last name Nguyen is a very popular last name for Vietnamese people. So they’ve reached out to me on Instagram. And then he just kept pursuing me. And we met up and yeah, just started talking.

Joe Panek  06:14

the Vietnamese national team just like slid into your DMS? 

Cerina Nguyen  06:18

Basically. Yeah. 

Joe Panek  06:20

You’re like,

Cerina Nguyen  06:22

Exactly. I was like, Oh, this is kind of weird. So I saw that he was following like the Truong twins. So I was like, Oh, let me just text him back. Like, hey, we can meet up and talk about like this whole national team and something I’m interested in just because the experience, I’m mainly going for the experience.

Joe Panek  06:39

So if you were to go over there, you would, you’d have to like climb the ranks of like various national teams or would you be right on the lead national team?

Cerina Nguyen  06:46

I think I would be right on the lead national team. I’m not sure how it works over there. I can’t remember how he explained it. But I think you play 3v3, certain games, or you do 4v4 or all five. So it just kind of depends,

Joe Panek  06:59

I guess, is it like, a 3v3 tournament to decide who makes the team kind of?

Cerina Nguyen  07:05

you have the main team, right? And then they break off into 3v3 teams? I have no idea honestly, like, I barely know anything about it. I can only ask them any questions, looking it up online doesn’t help at all?

Joe Panek  07:17


Cerina Nguyen  07:17

So that’s what I’m thinking. I think they recruit a bunch of people from out here, or whoever’s in Vietnam, and then we all play on a team, but then they break off into tournaments. So they obviously set up the teams and then you play whoever.

Joe Panek  07:32

But there would be a possibility that if you did make the team, you’d be able to play the US national team in these larger tournaments?

Cerina Nguyen  07:38

I think so maybe? I’m not sure. I think right now, it’s only like Southeast Asia. 

Joe Panek  07:44


Cerina Nguyen  07:44

But playing for the national team would be amazing. Initially, I actually wanted to play overseas, I wanted to go to Australia just because I know they have a really big like women’s basketball team over there like Australia and New Zealand 

Joe Panek  07:57

Sounds like D2 being able to go into transfer portals and stuff. Like if you have a really good season and a D two school you would try to?

Cerina Nguyen  08:05

Go up, yeah. A lot of these schools were saying that I can play one year. And if I do really good that one year, I can transfer out because Elmhurst is a D3 school. So I think the transition for me from JUCO to D3 would be a lot easier than going straight to D2, just because there’s a moving positions and the girls are way bigger. So yeah, I’m definitely trying to go to D1, but it’s just going to be a lot of work just because I’m like the average height to.

Joe Panek  08:36

When you come to that next level, you have to completely change your game. Well, when you’re really tall, right? They just, they just throw you under the hood. They’re like alright, well, you’re the tallest one on the team. So

Cerina Nguyen  08:45

Yeah. Which is nice, because you get fed the ball. But then looking now I just kind of wish I focused more on being a guard too.

Joe Panek  08:55

And were you always tall, like even in high school?

Cerina Nguyen  08:57

I was. Yeah, I was always the tallest one in high school. I think I’ve been this high since sophomore year, I probably grew like an inch.

Joe Panek  09:05

I mean, a six foot 15 year old is going to dominate? What 5’2-5’3? 

Cerina Nguyen  09:12


Joe Panek  09:13

Of course, that’s where they’re gonna put you. How are you mentally preparing for the amount of changes that are about to happen?

Cerina Nguyen  09:18

It’s a lot. It’s really, really hard. Honestly, mentally, it’s been really tough just to know that so much change is coming. But I look at it as every change is good. And it’s going to shape me to be a better person. And just being able to experience things that people don’t get to experience. If you’re going to Vietnam. Do you speak Vietnamese? I do not, no. I don’t speak it. I don’t understand it. So it’s definitely going to be fun. Yeah, I’m pretty sure they have translators too. So it wouldn’t be too hard.

Joe Panek  09:48

And what, you know, balls ball. Right?

Cerina Nguyen  09:50

Exactly, I think the plays are the only like, big difference. I think it’ll be fun.

Joe Panek  09:55

Thank you so much for talking with us. 

Cerina Nguyen  09:58

Of course. Thanks for having me.

Joe Panek  09:59

 For more More of our conversation with Serena go to SD city I am Joe Panik and thank you for listening to this edition of City speaks

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