Get to know ME: Eddie Alcantara
Eddie Alcantara, nearing the end of his first professional season, sheds light on his path to the pros!
People have been taking shots at my dream since I was eight years old.
Yo son, you betta off selling drugs than playing basketball.
Ni**as from Harlem don’t play ball. We hustle.
And you think you’re going to make it to the NBA?? You not nice!
My first time playing competitively under the whistle was for a coach named Mr. Hartfield, my fifth grade teacher. I knew very little about the game of basketball but loved to compete. I guess that’s something I picked up from my grandparents. Being a Harlem native, there was nothing like the hustlers attending your games who loved to bet money. The lights were bright, and the fans were loud and obnoxious, but there was nothing like seeing basketball legends attend games. At this age, I was just eleven years old, and I knew that one day I would not just be a kid on the court that everyone came out to see… but a legend.
My journey begins! My mother was ready for a change of scenery, and to Houston, we moved. Spring, Texas was a culture shock for me! I was so afraid to be there, but my ignorance and joy for life and basketball helped me get through the change. I was new to a middle school called Dueitt. I tried out for the basketball team and made it; accepted by my peers for being good at the sport. My first time playing was against a big name kid. I didn’t know he was a “somebody” so early on in his career. I didn’t play well against his team, in my opinion, but I was learning more about the game and world of basketball.
Fast-forward a year later. My mother told me that we had to move back to New York. My trainer/godfather Benjamin Simmons offered to let me stay with him and his wife and attend Westfield High School where I started on my Junior Varsity team. At the end of my freshman year, I had to move back to New York. A coach from Rice High School got news of me coming back. He contacted my mother and offered me a scholarship to attend the school. I was excited but upset when she told me I had to wear a uniform and a tie. Man, I can’t wear no god damn tie on my way to and from school… Ma, you’re buggin! A damn tie? Basketball took care of itself. I was new to the whole getting free gear thing and thought that was cool. I was more excited at the fact that so many good players came from this school that was from Harlem or the Bronx and I knew that I was going to be just as good if not better. By mid school year, I got into a fight after a basketball game. They gave me the option to withdraw from the school because I was an excellent student, but there were strict rules against fighting.
They informed me that I would not be able to play basketball for the remainder of the year if I attended another school in the state of New York. So, my godfather helped me, and with permission from my mother, I completed my sophomore year back in Texas at Westfield high school where I was allowed to play. After finishing my school year, that following summer I played in one AAU tournament. It was with my good friends Justin M. and John O’Donnell at a place called Legends Gym, ten minutes away from Woodlands Texas. A talent scout and coach named Mack Cleveland seen me playing against a team that had a player he was scouting and thought that I could compete at a high level. He suggested that Chicago is where I needed to be and that he could help me get there. I called my mother and told her. She thought if that’s what I think I should do, then she would support my decision.
My grandmother is to this day my biggest supporter. She thought that me being away from family was forcing me to grow up too fast for comfort. She loves me and wants nothing but the best for my dream and me. She chose to visit where I would be staying in Chicago, along with my mother, to make sure I got there safe. They also wanted to talk to Fred Cleveland, Mack’s brother, who had a family of his own; wife Tina and their three boys Fred, Carmon, and Devin. He showed me what was important in life. He taught me that basketball is just a tool and when used correctly, can take you places and introduce you to new people and a different way of life. Fred and Tina loved me like one of their own and made sure I knew that. Fred enrolled me into an all boys’ Catholic school called Hales Franciscan where I played for Chicago legends coach London and Assistant Coach Sanders. My first year there, we went 29-4 and won the State Championship of Illinois. Basketball in Chicago is something special! If you can play well in the state of Illinois, your game gains a lot of attention, and you have the potential to become a household name.
I received a full scholarship from Western Kentucky University where I learned it is important to communicate and not overexert the body. During the summer of 2012, I chose to get a head start and believed that if I worked harder than everyone on the team, I could earn the respect of my teammates and coach. When the team had 5 am workouts, I made it a habit to be in the gym at 4 am and make 200 shots. When workouts started, I focused on outworking everyone. My head coach took notice and was happy to see the competitive nature I brought. One morning around the 4th of July, I woke up with a stiff neck and had a workout. I never communicated with my strength and conditioning trainer. During the workout, I felt fine until near the end. The feeling in my left arm went out. My body went numb. Then I lost complete feeling. Once I hit the floor, my strength and conditioning coach told me to get up not realizing that something was wrong. Once he saw that I was going through something major, he ended the workout and assisted in getting me help. After going through medical observation and treatment, they informed me that I would not be able to play basketball for some time, but if I rehabilitated and showed signs of mass improvement, I could then start to practice gradually. My focus was on making a comeback, not utilizing the option of redshirting and extending my education. During my time at Western Kentucky University, I participated in ten games. I didn’t play much. My greatest experience was playing against top 25 schools Louisville, VCU, and Kansas, also making it to the NCAA tournament. Guys like Jamal Crook, T.J. Price, Brandon Harris and George Fant made me feel like I belonged and that my presence in practice played a big part of the team’s success.
I transferred to Blinn Junior College located just 45 minutes away from Houston Texas. I played well my sophomore year at Blinn but the highlight of my time there was receiving my associate degree. I did face adversity with my team making it to the tournament and playing on a severely sprained ankle and left fractured ribs.
I continued my basketball career at St. Cloud State University where I was recruited as a combo- guard. I did my part my first year there, although the team and the new head coach had trouble getting on the same page. The following year, my senior season, many players transferred and I ended up getting stuck in a situation where as a basketball player I became irrelevant to the program and couldn’t compete for reasons beyond me. I did not let that kill my dreams and continued to push toward my future.