Keeping the Latin Legacy Alive at Manhattan College

by Juliocesar Viguera-Pacheco, Contributor

Since its beginning, basketball has dominated the United States and Europe.While, people look to the Caribbean, Central and South America for sports like baseball or soccer. 

But now, because of migration from countries like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and their exposure to new cultures, sports and lifestyles, ten players from the Dominican Republic have made it to the NBA. 

Latest in that lineage for Manhattan College and the Dominican Republic comes José Pérez, the senior native from the Bronx.

Pérez follows the footsteps of the ex-Jasper and fellow Dominican, Luis Flores. Flores is the all-time leading scorer for the Men’s Basketball Program at Manhattan (2,046 points). He was named MAAC Player of the Year and MAAC Tournament MVP in 2002-03 and 2003-04. 

Flores also led the Jaspers to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2003 and 2004, when Manhattan upset Florida in round 64. Flores is the most recent Jasper to be drafted into the NBA when the Houston Rockets chose him as the 23rd pick of the second round in 2004. Flores ended up playing for the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets. 

“José (Pérez) takes pride in his Dominican background,” said Billy Turnage, coach at Wings Academy in the Bronx. “His junior year when made the Dominican national team where played junior and senior year, he always would wear the National team shirt or carry the bookbag.” 

Pérez played at Wings Academy during his ninth and tenth grade. Turnage mentioned how Pérez did not play for the Wings Academy varsity team until his sophomore year. Pérez had to work for his starting spot, which he secured after the winter break. 

“He was very determined,” added Turnage, “He knew he wanted to play Division 1 basketball.”

In his junior year, Pérez transferred to Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut under Head Coach Tom Espinosa. There, he had one of the most solid and remembered seasons for Putnam fanatics. During his time there he also played with many Division 1 players from all over the nation. One of his teammates at Putnam Science Academy, Nick Brennen, now plays alongside Pérez at Manhattan as well. Brennan is a transfer from Harcum College, an associate degree-granting college located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania that has seen four other alums become Jaspers (Liam McCabe-Moran ‘09, Pauly Paulicap ‘17, Tyler Reynolds ‘18 and Michael Okafor ‘19).

“José Pérez is a winner. The year he played, 2017-18, you know, our overall record was 38-4 and we went on to win the regular season, the Great Atlantic Conference championship and the tournament championship. And then we went on to win our first-ever school history national championship.” said Coach Espinosa during an interview, remembering one of the program’s best years.

After graduating from Putnam Science Academy, Pérez attended Gardner-Webb University for two years before transferring to Marquette University for his junior year and eventually made it back home to play for Manhattan College. 

“It means the world that he is back home.” said Mikey, aka Mayor Dp, a community leader and coach for the team “Dominican Power” in the Dyckman basketball league. 

“I can take my current Wings players to a game and see somebody who has been in the seat they are sitting in.” said Turnage, hinting at Mayor Dp’s statement.

Perez has been demonstrating his talents all season as he has led the Jaspers to a 5-1 record.