2004-11-26 / Sports

Hard Work Pays Off For Alvarez

By Elio Velez

Victor Alvarez (middle) with family and friends
Victor Alvarez (middle) with family and friends The small but vocal contingent from Rockaway wasn’t rooting for New York University as they opened their first basketball game of the season at home. They were rooting for NYU’s opponent SUNY- New Paltz. Specifically, they were cheering on the Hawks’ Victor Alvarez, whose hard work and perseverance has led him back to the basketball court.

At Beach Channel, Alvarez teamed up with Rahshon Clark and Arthur Robertson to make the playoffs in 2002 and win the Queens III A division and Queens championship in 2003. He wasn’t about statistics.

As the point guard, he showed the leadership that Dolphins Coach Jim Malone says Victor marveled at.

“I’m very happy to be here. He’s a great guy and such a great example of our basketball program,” Malone said.

“It was a lot of bumps and bruises but he hung in there. He observed so much from his junior year to his senior year. He wanted to get better,” Malone said. “He is so poised.”

Now through all of his successes on the court, Alvarez fought a lot of battles off it. In his sophomore year in 2001, his family was evicted from their home in Ocean Village due to mysterious circumstances. That’s where the struggles started.

The family traveled from homeless shelter to homeless shelter throughout the city. Alvarez still attended Beach Channel and at one point, traveling from the Bronx to make it to class on time and playing with the varsity team.

“He had to get up at 5 in the morning and not leave for school until a certain time because of the curfew (from the shelter),” Victor’s mother Renee Alvarez, said.

His teacher and coaches didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until Alvarez arrived at school late for classes in his junior year. The first person to pick up on what was going on was Jennifer Prensky, a teacher with Instructional Support Services at Beach Channel.

The security officers were picking him up outside and taking him inside the building. When I asked whim what was going on, Vic told me the whole story,” Prensky said.

“I went with him to the principal’s office (to former Beach Channel Principal Bernard Gassaway) and I said you have to hear what’s been going on for the whole year.”

Once Gassaway heard the story, they were very compassionate and helped to accommodate Alvarez as best as possible. With a strong support structure, Prensky believes that is what helped him stay positive for the rest of high school.

“I tell my English class every year about Victor and he’s one of the biggest success stories that I’ve ever had. His pictures are all up in the classroom. It’s just wonderful to see him”, says Prensky.

“He was always on time. He always did his work. He was always prepared, willing to help and he is just an all around a great person.”

After graduating in 2003, Alvarez enrolled in SUNY New Paltz.

“I redshirted last year”, Alvarez said after New Paltz lost 93-67 to NYU. “I wanted to adjust to school so I have four years of eligibility. Last year I played intramurals and the coaches worked me out.”

In his first college action, Alvarez scored two points and played a few minutes. For most of the game and this season, he’ll be observing the action from the bench this season as the backup point guard. He believes he’ll be seeing more time on the court by the end of the season.

After the game, Victor hugged his parents, sister and brother. He was ecstatic that his friends, which included Dolphins assistant head coach Mo Johnson, also came out to show support.

It was a heartwarming moment for a family that stuck together through hard times.

“To even be a part of this and watch him is so great,” Victor Alvarez Sr. says. “I can’t even describe it. But we worked hard to get a better situation. We stayed together as a family.”

“My wife and my son handled the situation better than I did because I was a nervous wreck. I thought something wouldn’t happen like this.”

Victor’s future may be as a teacher. He was invited by Prensky to work as an instructor during the summer at Police Athletic League playground sites this summer throughout the Rockaways. For the present, college is the main priority in his life and he is more than happy to have that that opportunity to succeed.

“It’s fun. It’s been good but I haven’t been in here so long. It’s good to be home,” says Alvarez.

Next week: Former Beach Channel star Rahshon Clark joins the Big 12’s Iowa State Cyclones.

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