A year ago, Alain Ravelo was cut from the Weehawken High School varsity basketball team, relegated to a role on the junior varsity.
“I was pretty upset,” Ravelo said. “I was mad that I wasn’t on the varsity.”
Ravelo then approached Weehawken head coach Jake McNish.
“He said to me, ‘What do I have to do?’” McNish said. “So I told him that there were three things he had to work on. I told him that he had to work on his shot to become a better 3-point shooter and that he had to work on his range. I told him that he had to work on his left hand. I told him he needed to play better defense.”
Instead of walking away with his tail between his legs, Ravelo took McNish’s words as a challenge.
“I just went to work, practicing hard for the next year,” said Ravelo, now a junior. “I practiced hard every day.”
Ravelo went to nearby Louisa Park and practiced his shot every single day during the summer. He also went to the Weehawken High School weight room to work on his 6-foot-1 frame, to get bigger and stronger. He also became an avid runner.
“I’d go for a little run,” Ravelo said. “I’d start at 48th Street and head down to the waterfront. I’d then run the stairs back up (from the bottom of the Palisades to Boulevard East) and do it all over again. I did that every day.”
During the Indians’ activities in summer leagues, McNish noticed that Ravelo was a changed person and player.
“I saw that he started to improve,” McNish said. “We went to a bunch of different one-day tournaments and I saw that he was a better player. We went to the Passaic Valley camp and I watched him play with determination. He wanted the ball. He was making shots.”
By the time it came for preseason practice, Ravelo didn’t know where he fit in.
“I really didn’t know,” Ravelo said. “I just went hard from the beginning of practice, from the first day. Then, I started to realize I could do it.”
“We graduated five senior starters from last year,” McNish said. “I said to Alain that he had a great opportunity to start on the varsity team this year. He just became a different kid. He was in the gym every day, working on his shot, working on his left hand. He really stepped his game up.”
When the season started, Ravelo was not only a varsity player, but he was the Indians’ leading scorer. He was consistently making shots, scoring more than 12 points per game.
“He was the focus of the team early in the year,” McNish said. “But we really didn’t have anyone else who could score.”
The Indians struggled early on, sputtering to a 4-8 record.
But then a talented transfer, 6-foot-7 McKay LaDuke arrived, and everything started to change, for Ravelo and the Indians.
“He helped me a lot,” Ravelo said. “He fit right in with us. He was perfect. The chemistry was perfect. It made things easier for me. I get a lot of nice open shots.”
In LaDuke’s first game with the Indians, Ravelo scored 30 points and LaDuke added 27 as the Indians defeated Wood-Ridge.
They have not lost since.
That’s right, the Indians have rolled off 12 straight wins to improve to 16-8, thanks to the wizardry of LaDuke, but also the steady, consistent play of Ravelo.
“I think this kid has improved more than anyone I’ve ever coached,” McNish said of Ravelo. “He goes all out all the time, in practices and the games. He doesn’t let up at all. He’s almost too unselfish now. I tell him he has to take the shot. I even have to yell at him to shoot.”
Last week, Ravelo led the Indians to four straight wins, scoring 16 in three games and 20 in the other, a 73-70 win over Bogota. In a 54-49 win over Hasbrouck Heights Monday night, Ravelo had 16 points, six rebounds and six assists.
For his efforts, Ravelo has been named as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Going from a junior varsity player to a 15-point per game scorer on a 16-win team that has won 12 straight doesn’t exactly happen all the time.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Ravelo said. “I can’t even believe it. I’m a little surprised by it, but I just kept working hard. At first, I didn’t have much confidence, but now I do. I don’t want to be cocky, but I keep working at getting better.”
McNish can’t stop singing the praises of his junior forward.
“He’s one of the nicest kids in the building,” McNish said. “He’s a true gentleman. He’s quiet and unassuming, but everyone just loves the kid. I don’t want to say what he’s done is shocking, but it is remarkable. He just had a lot of determination to get better.”
McNish had one other gem to add.
“And he’s a junior, so I get him back next year,” McNish said. “That’s always a plus.”
Ravelo will not rest on his laurels.
“I’m going to work hard again this summer,” Ravelo said. “I can’t give up now. I have to keep working hard to be an even better player next year.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.