Patience is a trait that is valued in college basketball under any circumstance, but especially in the current reality dominated by COVID-19.
Few people understand that line of thinking these days better than everybody connected with Georgia Tech’s program.
During the Yellow Jackets’ recent 17-day break between games — which ended Wednesday with a win over No. 20 Clemson — they looked to Jose Alvarado to set the example on patience.
“It’s frustrating that we (haven’t been) able to play all our games, but that said, I’m just trying to get better,” the All-ACC point guard said after Tech’s scheduled game with N.C. State on Saturday was postponed due to COVID-related protocols within the Wolfpack program. “We knew (there) was a possibility that games would be postponed. So when this happened, it was frustrating for everybody, but we’re just trying to focus on the positive.
‘We just keep on working out and trying to get better every day and looking forward to the next game we’ve got Wednesday.”
And make no mistake, Alvarado has had to exhibit plenty of patience throughout his career at Tech.
He learned it while missing seven games each to injuries to his elbow and ankle respectively in his freshman and junior seasons.
Those lessons have definitely come in hand for the 6-foot, 179-pound senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., this season, and they represent experience he’s drawn upon as a team leader to help his Jackets teammates cope with what has been a frustrating hiatus.
“Those experiences taught me a lesson about being patient, being mentally sharp in certain situations,” Alvarado said. “Those situations are a little more serious, personally, to me, because (the first injury) affected my arm. But I’m just trying to stay healthy. That’s the one thing I’m trying to stay focused on.
“It taught me that (even after) missing games, you can come back at any time, and you’ve just got to perform on the court. There’s no excuses (even) with the pandemic because it’s world wide. But when you’re on the court and they blow the whistle, you can be in shape or not in shape. You just got to go out and win the game.”
Tech (7-3) was winning at a much more frequent clip before the forced hiatus than it had throughout the past three seasons, due in no small part to Alvarado, who has posted career highs in scoring (17.1 ppg), overall field goal percentage (52.2 percent), 3-point shooting (38.8 percent) and free throw shooting (85 percent).
Those numbers cap a progression that has seen him grow from a promising freshman to an All-ACC selection — third-team postseason after his junior season last year and preseason second-team honors before this season — despite the injuries.
Those numbers represent a nice reward not only for Alvarado, but also for Tech coach Josh Pastner, who took quite a bit of grief for recruiting his diminutive, now-star, point guard out of Christ The King High School in Brooklyn.
“Jose’s just a tough, hard-nosed young man,” Pastner said after Tech’s 70-54 win over Wake Forest on Jan. 3, its last game action before Wednesday. “I’m really proud of Jose. … But I will say that I was texted a couple days ago his AAU coaches. They’ll say it because when we took Jose Alvarado, do you know how many people were saying, ‘What are you doing taking him?’ I got a lot of messages from people around the country saying, ‘Coach, you’re in the ACC. He’s too small.’
“He was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. Some people had him as a two-star. I had a lot of people telling us he’s not good enough. He’s too small, he’s not quick enough, not this, not that. But we trusted our evaluation, and he has gotten better. … He’s playing as well as anyone right now, and he’s got to keep it up. We’re a better team when he does that, but I’m really proud of Jose’s development from where he started to where he is now. It’s a great testament to Jose Alvarado.”
Indeed, Pastner and the Jackets have relied quite a bit this season on Alvarado, who is also leading the team in assists (3.9 apg) and steals (2.3 spg) this season.
And they will continue to look to him for leadership as they try to shake off whatever rust may have built up over nearly three weeks without a game.
It’s a role Alvarado not only accepts, but relishes.
“We knew before the season (that) a situation like this could occur,” Alvarado said. “We can’t control what’s not controllable. So yeah, we look at film, practice and try to get in shape and get better. Practice is practice, but when it comes to a game, it’s different. So we’re just trying to keep our minds on that.”
No matter what happens the rest of this season, there figures to be a reward for Alvarado’s patience throughout further down the road.
With the COVID disruptions having prompted the NCAA to grant all winter sports athletes an extra year of eligibility next year, Alvarado has the option to take it or to try to pursue a professional career either in the NBA or overseas.
While he’s had plenty of time to consider those options, he says they are the last thing on his mind at the moment.
“There’s definitely an opportunity for me,” Alvarado said. “I haven’t really thought (about) it. I’m just trying to focus on the team (right now). But you know, it’s in God’s hands. However the season ends, I’m just trying to enjoy the moment. If God takes me (to professional basketball), he takes me there.”