Eddie Alcantara continues to give us insight into his journey with this second entry.
It’s 2016, and I am both excited that my collegiate basketball career in St. Cloud, Minnesota, is complete and afraid of what the future has in store for me. Basketball season has come to an end, and I knew that I had to work harder than I ever had before, but intelligently. My class schedule gave me the flexibility I needed to work on me. I focused on utilizing as much time as possible to be prepared for any opportunity that would present itself. Monday-Friday, from 9 am to 11, I would hit the weight room. From 12 to 1 I would swim, tread water, and work on injury prevention and ligament exercises. I would then work on my basketball skills until 3:30 and then finally get something to eat before getting ready for class. In class when I could, I would look at old game film of Gilbert Arenas, Dennis Johnson, and Dwayne Wade. On my off days, I would go check out the women’s soccer game, hang out with friends or study at the library (we called it the lib) to distract me from basketball.
During the season I was in contact with a man named Glenn who heard about me back when I was in high school. He wanted nothing from me but to see me do well with the game of basketball, so we kept in contact. He told me that so much work had to be done to start my professional career but that I could use my ethnic Latin background to my advantage. Glenn helped me find the right contacts and to put my name in the draft for a league in the Dominican Republic called the LNB (Liga Nacional de Baloncesto). When the time came, I packed up my things and said goodbye to my friends in St. Cloud. I drove 1,261 miles to New York. Along the way, I made a stop in Chicago to speak with Glenn at a Restaurant called Cuba 312, where he introduced me to Billy, the owner, who also played basketball collegiately. It was the first time Glenn and I had met in person. They put a plan in place, and they were also interested in me taking part in playing with the Orgullo family in Las Vegas if I had the time. Our meeting came to an end, and I felt like I was moving in the right direction. I visited family before continuing my journey to New York so I could rest.
Upon arriving home, my family was excited for my to return but it was short lived. I had a flight booked for the 15th of May heading to the Dominican Republic. Step one for me once I arrived in Santo Domingo was to start the process of getting both my Dominican ID and passport. My name was entered in the draft for the LNB. The season would not start until August, and I was interested in joining the Dominican National Team. With the help of my aunt, I was able to meet with Mr. Baez who presented the opportunity and loved my work ethic in the workouts and scrimmages. Unfortunately, I was not selected to play with the national team in Panama, but doors opened.
On Draft Day, I had no agent or representation. I was just working with what I had… my game and my faith. I met with Mr. Baez at a hotel accompanied by my cousin Amada. He took us to a green room where I would have to wait for them to call my name. And with the first pick… Jonathan Araujo, a 6’10 power forward, now playing for Indios. Second pick, Yerri Flores, a 6’2 point guard, selected by Titanes. Third pick, Gelvis Solano, a 6’3 point guard, selected by Reales. Thoughts were going through my mind, and I tried to think about what was next. I smiled and shared the excitement and accomplishments of those who were all in the green room. And then it happened, my name sounded through the loudspeaker, picked 6th by Soles. I walked on the stage, received my hat and gave the commissioner a handshake. I was excited, but not too excited because I knew that there was a lot of work that needed to be done.
I signed my first contract with Soles and didn’t focus on the minor details which in turn caused me to end up in a difficult situation with not being able to get to and from games and practice. On July 8, I was released from the active roster 15 minutes after losing a game. The assistant coach handed me a letter stating that I had been removed from the active roster and would not be paid from that point on. I was devastated! But I was not going to give up. I waited a week before getting my check. I used what I had to pay for a plane ticket back to New York. I contacted Glenn to tell him about what happened. He said that I could stay in shape by traveling and be playing on his team. I finally made it home to New York. I stopped by my grandmother’s apartment where she gave me some advice and told me to prove everyone wrong. I packed up some of my stuff and continued to Chicago. My godparents allowed me to stay with them as long as I worked and agreed to help out around the house. I worked three jobs and trained at Quest Multisport. I competed against and learned from guards such as Sherron Collins, Jacob Pullen, and many other basketball players who have competed at the highest levels.
It was time to travel to Las Vegas and compete with Orgullo. Everything was paid for, and I was ready to play. Glenn wanted me to do one thing, and that was to have fun. Eddie, you’re here to relax and enjoy yourself. We are going to win the championship. Don’t worry about anything. This is family time! And that’s exactly how they made me feel. We won the championship and celebrated. I returned to Chicago and continued to work and train.
I paid for and took part in three different programs. I wanted to see where I stood and to be given an opportunity hopefully. The first was an NBL Canada combine on September 10 where I thought I performed well. The commissioner was honest and told me that if a team didn’t contact me, then my best bet would be to attend the final combine in Ontario Canada. September 21 was my second combine. It was at Quest Multisport where I had another great workout and scrimmage. I was able to get film and build a relationship with Jerry Hardin. He organized the event. The last event I took part of in Chicago was on September 25. I had a tryout with the Windy City Bulls of the NBA D-league. I ended up not being selected to attend the preseason workout, so I looked to head back home and regroup. I needed to get my thoughts together.
Back in New York, I started a job with UPS delivering packages, and I was so close to giving up. My godfather flew into New York on business, and when we got together, he gave me some advice. Do what makes you happy! Being a professional basketball player isn’t for everyone, but you will be successful no matter what you do. Later that week I received a Facebook message from another participant (Cameron Smith) from the NBL Canada combine in Chicago. He invited me to ride up to Ontario to play for a chance to get picked in the draft on October 16. We got there a day early to get shots up and a feel for the gym. It was a two-day event. I got sick the night before and couldn’t even go on the first day of the event. I did take part of the second day. I felt better that day and performed well. The commissioner thought so as well. He let me know that when we crossed paths on the way out the door. The draft took place online so Cameron and I began to head back. The weather wasn’t good that day, and along the way, it changed from bad to worse. We got stuck in Buffalo, NY and stopped for about 2 hours to let the snowstorm calm. As we waited, they announced Cameron’s name. I didn’t want to discourage him with my opinions on draft, so I kept them to myself and celebrated with him on his accomplishment.
We finally made it to our destinations. Back in New York, I had worked yet again with UPS, this time as a driver’s helper. I finally had the time to visit with many of my family members whom I don’t get to see much. On December 26, I made my way back to DR. I needed to complete the process of getting my ID and passport before the year ended. At the end of the first week of January, I met with Mr. Baez again. This year will be a great year. There are three tournaments that you can be a part of this year that will propel your career. I contacted my godfather right away. He happened to be a professional shooting coach, so I asked him for assistance in preparing for the opportunities that lie ahead. I went back to New York for a month then booked a flight to Miami on February 15. Not only did my godfather help me prepare, but he also put me in the position to pick the minds of businessmen and NBA legends. They taught me that there is a particular way to communicate and a special focus that needs to be harnessed to accomplish a goal. On March 1, things started to go as planned. I signed in the Dominican Republic. I was welcomed with open arms into an organization whose primary focus is winning the championship.