Magdalena star point guard Joren Mirabal first became acquainted with Southern Virginia University several years ago when the D-III school was recruiting his older brother Jorrell Mirabal.

While Jorrell Mirabal decided to take an offer from the University of New Mexico, his younger brother never forgot about that school back east.

“I love absolutely everything about it,” Joren Mirabal said. “I got in touch with them this year. I decided to go visit them and completely fell in love with everything about it.”

A small school with a student population of about 1,100 in the Buena Vista, Virginia, in the heart of the state’s rural Shenandoah Valley, the area provides the small-town atmosphere that he wanted to retain.

Joren Mirabal, right, celebrating a second Class 1A state championship with teammate Ahadu Tsehave.
Glen Rosales for El Defensor Chieftain

“It’s smaller than Socorro,” Mirabal said. “That’s another aspect I like. The classes have from eight to 12 students; exactly what I’m used to and exactly what I like.”

He had offers from local D-11 schools like New Mexico Highlands in Las Vegas and Eastern New Mexico in Portales.

And he was seriously considering Angelo State in Texas before their coach left.

But the Knights program just felt right, Mirabal said.

“I love the program,” he said. “They play a style that is a lot like here at Magdalena.  Getting up and down and really sharing the ball. I haven’t seen that play style anywhere else. Mostly all I’ve seen is a lot of one on one and stand around and stuff.”

Playing under his father, Jory Mirabal at Magdalena, the Steers were in the state championship game three years in a row, winning the Class 1A title the last two seasons as Mirabal averaged 25.3 points, 5.3 assists and 5.1 steals per game.

“They’re a team that is really on the coming up and really building their program,” he said. “I think I can definitely work my way into some good playing time, but I definitely have to get after it and that’s what I plan on doing.”

The Knights lose just two seniors and have nine freshman listed on the roster so there likely will be plenty of playing time available. But Mirabal knows nothing will be handed to him.

“I’ll be doing my own stuff getting better,” he said. “I really plan on improving a lot in the weight room. I feel like that’s the biggest jump between levels.”

Additionally, Mirabal said growing up in the gym and within the Steers program has prepared him well for college ball.

“I think being a good teammate and definitely the work ethic. Our work ethic is very similar to the next level,” he said. “I haven’t seen any other high schools, especially our size, like it.”

His dad set the tone that Mirabal said he follows.

“He expects us to get better each and every month of the year, not just in basketball season,” he said. “We always stay in the gym as much as we can no matter what season. Being in the weight room when its off season. Staying in shape. And I love it.”

Mirabal said he’s undecided on a major, looking at both sports administration and education as possibilities.

If there is any drawback, he said, it is being so far away from home.

“That’s really the biggest minus to the situation,” he said. “It certainly is going to be different in a completely different part of the country. I’ll never see my family. But I think that’s the least important factor. I think it will be good.”

Glen Rosales for El Defensor Chieftain