The Tenacious Lucas Alves
Wednesday - March 24, 2010
Lucas Alves sat in the post-game media room in Bellingham, Wash., and everything from his hunched shoulders to the tone of his voice said disappointment - major disappointment.
For the third time in three years, Alves and his BYU-Hawaii teammates had reached the title game of the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Regional Championships, only to fall in the final seconds. This one may have hurt the most - as it also marked the end of Alves’ brilliant career with the Seasiders.
“It’s frustrating,” he says. “Our goal is not just to make the game, but win the game. We overcame so many obstacles, but we couldn’t overcome this obstacle.”
It was not for lack of effort. In the championship game, the 6-foot-9-inch Alves had poured in 22 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, and he finished the regional championships as the tournament’s leading scorer. Also, on that same night, he was named the PacWest Player of the Year for the third straight season - a remarkable honor considering the fact that he missed the first two months of the season while recovering from a knee injury.
“It’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had,” Alves says about the time he had to sit on the bench in street clothes and just watch.
His senior year was expected to be almost a coronation of his basketball talents. He had finished his junior year by being named Daktronics National Player of the Year and his Seasiders were ranked No. 1 in the nation before his senior season began. He also had distinguished himself in the classroom, earning all-region academic honors thanks to his excellent 3.38 GPA in exercise sports science. It’s an academic major that he would put to good use because he suffered a severe knee injury in June while playing for the Brazilian national team and underwent surgery, thus missing all of October, November and December. Amazingly, after much rehabilitation, he was back on the court by the first week of January.
But he was hardly at full strength. He limped noticeably while running up and down the court, and the usual confidence that he exudes while playing was gone. In his first few weeks back, BYU-Hawaii lost three of four games, including two conference contests.
Through this disappointment and frustration, Alves worked harder than ever to get himself back to the outstanding level that he had shown in his first three PacWest seasons, when he had averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. His feathery shooting touch was still there; he just had to regain his confidence in the strength of his leg.
The turning point came in mid-February, when he stood tall against conference co-leader Dixie State and amassed a game-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds in a dominating performance that showed that he was almost all the way back.
Then, in the final regular season game of this comeback year, Alves poured in a game-high 32 points in a victory over archrival Hawaii Pacific, thus helping BYU-Hawaii clinch a share of the 2010 conference title with Dixie.
Those performances, intermingled with several other high-scoring efforts late in the season, impressed the coaches enough to once again name him as the conference player of the year despite his injury. In those final weeks, his exploits were also witnessed by several NBA scouts, and it’s very probable he’ll get an opportunity to play professionally after graduation later this spring.
In the NCAA regionals, his impact was tremendous again in leading BYU-Hawaii to victories over championship teams from the Great Northwest and California Collegiate conferences. But despite his second-half heroics in the title game, the Seasiders lost a heartbreaker, thus once again denying them a trip to the Elite Eight.
Alves still has a chance to get to Springfield, Mass., the site of the National Championships, though. At last check, he was awaiting word as to whether or not he would be invited to the NABC all-star game, which is played annually at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield on the day before the title game. Based on his accomplishments, it would be a fitting honor for an outstanding player who has shown that he could make a difference both on and off the court.
For four years in Laie, Lucas Alves has truly been a man for all seasons.
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