It’s a dream that countless young athletes have: to become the fan favorite, to have hundreds or thousands of pairs of eyes glued to you every time you touch the ball, to have the crowd chant your name when you make a big play.
For LMU senior forward Petr Herman, that dream actually came true.
A small group of devoted fans emerged early in his collegiate career and, soon enough, their excitement carried over to the rest of the LMU fanbase.
“It’s obviously a great feeling,” Herman said. “Those guys are amazing, so it’s always a lot of fun.”
It was the latest step in a basketball career that has taken Herman all over the world.
He grew up in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, and it was there that he learned how to play basketball and developed his passion for the sport.
“My dad introduced me to it,” Herman recalled. “It’s always been my primary sport because I had a lot of friends [who played], and I just liked the environment and the sport itself.”
He was thrown into the fire almost as soon as he began playing, regularly going up against boys who were two years older than him.
“I had to work a little harder than everybody because I had to match up with them,” he said. “That was my addiction.”
Herman’s mindset became clear: put in the maximum effort and the product on the floor will develop over time. This mentality drove him during his years as a youth basketball player and followed him to the Czech national program. He was invited to join the program in 2010.
Herman, who was 15 at the time, quickly became a key player, participating in the FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship in the same year he joined the team. He then played in the Under-18 Championships in both 2011 and 2012 .
Herman’s national team experience also provided a stepping stone for the next portion of his path to LMU. In 2012, he joined Canarias Basketball Academy (CBA), a basketball program in the Canary Islands in Spain that has trained dozens of college basketball players. Although he probably didn’t know at the time, Herman’s road to LMU began as soon as he entered CBA's grounds.
LMU’s head coach, Mike Dunlap, was friends with CBA director and founder Rob Orellana, who told him about Herman. Dunlap, in turn, began the recruiting process. But even before that happened, Herman was learning about LMU while playing at CBA.
Richard Petruška, a former NBA player who was one of Herman’s coaches at CBA, played for a season at LMU. Petruška talked about LMU in a way that piqued Herman’s interest in the school and the program.
“He told me that [LMU] was the best year of his life,” Herman said. “I was like, ‘Okay, I like that.’ That played a role.”
Herman was also drawn to LMU because of the weather, the academics and the fact that it was his mother’s favorite of all the schools he was considering.
Once he arrived, he began to adapt to the differences between European and American basketball.
“As a freshman, I had to adjust to what coaches wanted,” Herman said. “The physicality of the game and the pace of the game [were] different.”
“I think Petr found the pace to be really quick,” Dunlap added. “Time helped him more than anything.”
Gradually, over the course of his first three years at LMU, Herman found his place in the program and entered the 2017-2018 season hoping to be an important part of the team as a senior. But he damaged cartilage in his leg during the first game of the season and needed surgery. He missed the remainder of the year. After he was granted another year of eligibility, he began the rehabilitation process.
“He didn’t have any brakes,” Dunlap said. “His quad wouldn’t contract after the surgery. That’s normal, so that was a time-related, really boring kind of process.”
Although the rehab period was lengthy and tedious, Herman came out of it feeling like a changed person who had a new perspective on life as an athlete.
“It really helped me a lot to understand the body process, recovery, nutrition—all that kind of stuff,” he said. “I appreciate it more than I did before.”
He was ready to go by the time the season started, and he served as a contributor throughout the year for one of the best teams in LMU basketball history. He carved out niches as a pick-and-roll defender and a smart offensive player who provided a spark off the bench.
That offense was the catalyst for fans throwing their energy behind him. Supporters began showing up to games with cutouts of his head. After every breakaway dunk, every turnaround basket in the post, every big play he made, the cheers from the Gersten Pavilion crowd were unmistakable.
“PE-TR HER-MAN! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.) PE-TR HER-MAN! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.)”
Now that Herman’s time at LMU has concluded, he and Dunlap are both beginning to reflect on his collegiate career. Dunlap noted that Herman often made his biggest mark off the court as a recruiter and a mentor to homesick players.
“When I would ask [players] who has the greatest impact on the team, all of them would say Petr does,” Dunlap explained.
Herman spoke of his career in more abstract terms, of what the LMU program and the game of basketball have meant to his life.
“This place has been like my home for five years,” he said. “Overall, basketball has given me so much. [There are] so many things that I appreciate about it.”
Regardless of where he goes next, he’ll bring with him the memories of his journey through the Czech Republic, the Canary Islands and the arena in Los Angeles that chanted his name.