There were heavy boos last week when Jose Alvarado had the audacity to foul one of North Carolina’s best basketball players late in the game and then step over him while walking away. When Alvarado returns to Chapel Hill in two years, there’s a 100 percent chance the fans will remember him and serenade him with boos again.
Not that Alvarado cares. Nor will he be intimidated. When you grow up playing basketball on the playgrounds of Brooklyn, there’s little chance that the wrath of 20,000 fans will make him crawl in the corner and shy away from playing his game.
That sort of in-your-face aggressive style has driven Alvarado since he arrived at The Flats this summer to join with coach Josh Pastner to rebuild the program. Alvarado is one of four highly regarded freshmen who were added to the team this season. All have played and contributed but none more than the gritty little point guard who isn’t afraid of a challenge.
“He’s going to be a great four-year player for us,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner. “By his third year, he’s going to be really good.”
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Alvarado was the first player Pastner signed when he landed the job at Georgia Tech. He spotted Alvarado, who attended Christ the King School and competed in the New York City Catholic League, at a Nike EYBL event and was immediately taken by how hard he played, his toughness and his grit. Pastner made it a priority to sign Alvarado, who turned down Seton Hall, Rutgers, Indiana and Xavier to come South and follow in the footsteps of former New Yorkers Stephon Marbury and Kenny Anderson.
“He was not going to be scared to go play at Cameron Indoor at Duke. He was not going to be scared to play in Chapel Hill at the Smith Center,” Pastner said to Georgia Tech play-by-play broadcaster Andy Demetra. “I knew he was the type of guy that when we lined up for the national anthem, I know he looks across the court and he sees all those five-start McDonald’s All-Americans and all those elite guys, and he’s not scored one bit and he’s not scared to go for the jugular vein in a sense.
In 20 games, Alvarado is averaging 13.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and has a team-leading 34 3-point baskets. In seven ACC games, he’s averaging 11.9 points and is shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers. He’s playing 38 minutes in conference games, an indication of his importance to the team.
There have been growing pains for Alvarado, who has struggled with turnovers now that ACC play has begun. In six conference games, Alvarado had 60 assists and 50 turnovers. He had four turnovers and one assist in Wednesday’s loss to Florida State.
“Relying on a freshman point guard in the ACC isn’t easy,” Pastner said. “We can’t turn the ball over.”
But don’t expect Alvarado’s playing time to diminish. He’s a long-term solution to the problem. Plus, there’s not really an alternative. Justin Moore, who started 18 games last season and played 20-plus minutes in the first two games this season, is no longer in the equation; he hasn’t played since before Christmas and has played only 110 minutes in eight games.
Alvarado is doing his part by continuing to play hard and give maximum effort.
“We worked so hard on practice trying to adjust everything that was wrong and try to get better,” Alvarado said. “We kept on working hard in practice.”