Vera Jo Bustos was speechless, and she couldn’t remember the last time that happened to her.
The 2007 West Las Vegas graduate and current director of operations for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball program ran out of words Friday as she talked about her latest accomplishment — her induction into the Adams State University Hall of Fame, which was announced earlier that afternoon.
Bustos played basketball at the college from 2007-11 and left as the program’s all-time leading scorer, as well earning Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference West Division player of the year honors and a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association honorable mention All-American distinction twice.
Bustos said Adams State athletic director Larry Mortensen told her last week about the honor, but asked her not to say anything until the news release came out. Other than family and close friends, Bustos kept it to herself.
“He said, ‘You know, Vera Jo, it’s not usual for college or universities to induct someone so young,’ ” Bustos said with a chuckle. “It’s so very hard to put into words, though.”
While the words escape her, Bustos’ résumé speaks loudly for her. She started 105 games for the Grizzlies, finishing with 1,859 points — which still stands as the benchmark for the program. She also set the bar for field goals made (639) and 3-pointers (270). She earned the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s Freshman of the Year Award in 2008, then followed that with back-to-back West Division Player of the Year Awards in 2009 and ’10. Her junior and senior years saw her earn national recognition at the NCAA Division II level, as she earned honorable mention All-America honors in 2010 and ’11.
Bustos credited her Adams State teammates and coaches for helping make her accomplishments possible.
“It’s a huge testament to the culture, the discipline, the high expectations, the leadership [at Adams State] that I was fortunate to be a part of,” Bustos said. “It’s amazing how much I grew in those four years.”
Bustos parlayed that into a professional career, playing for Thessaloniki Apollon Kalamarias in Greece, where she averaged 11.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 21 games. Since then, she is focused on her coaching career and has spent the past four seasons at UNM in her current position.
Even as Bustos, who turned 30 last month, found her path professionally, she is not content to simply focus on one task. She started VJ’s Elite, which is dedicated to training and enhancing the basketball skills for youth players, branched out into motivational speaking and recently started another business — Mentality Solutions, in which she helps train athletes and people in the professional realm to improve their mental approach to their sport or career. It’s a way to take advantage of her sports psychology degree she earned at Adams State.
“I’m excited to see where both of those [businesses] go,” Bustos said. “It’s crazy to think that I’ve established two businesses before the age of 30. I’m excited to see how many lives I can impact and touch.”