LYNN — Jalen Echevarria didn’t think he’d get to this point.
An undersized guard who’s been one of the smallest guys on the court since he started playing as a kid, Echevarria always had to work extra hard to get where he wanted to be. All that work paid off Thursday night at Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium, when Echevarria scored his 1,000th career point in a St. Mary’s uniform.
“It’s amazing to get to this point,” Echevarria said. “Starting out in eighth grade, I never thought that I’d get here. But I worked really hard every offseason to continue to get better, and this is a very special moment for me now.”
St. Mary’s coach Dave Brown, who also happens to be Echevarria’s uncle, knows how hard Echevarria has worked over the years.
“I’ve seen Jalen play ball since he could walk, and it’s crazy to see his development over the years,” said Brown. “We brought him up to varsity to play a few minutes as an eighth grader, and over the past five years he’s matured into a fine young man and a great basketball player. His hard work in the offseason every year, on and off the court, has really paid off for him.”
It has been a year full of accomplishments for the Echevarria family. Earlier this month, Jalen’s older brother Marcos became just the third player in Nichols College history to score 2,000 career points. That took place the same day the younger Echevarria set foot on the Gillette Stadium turf in the Division 7 Super Bowl with St. Mary’s football team. Jalen counts Marcos as his biggest influence in the game.
“He’s my biggest influence and my biggest role model,” Echevarria said of his older brother. “I watch everything he does, go to all of his games and try to do what he does out there. I think a lot of what I see him do has translated to my game.”
“Being a small, scrappy guard certainly runs in the family,” said Brown. “I actually think that a lot more colleges are giving Jalen looks now because they realize they missed out on his brother four years ago and they see the same kinds of things in Jalen’s game.”
In his only season on the gridiron, Echevarria led the team in rushing yards (1,205), yards per carry (8.65), rushing touchdowns (16), receiving yards (345) and receiving touchdowns (5) and was named an Item All-Star. He even missed the first week of basketball practice while preparing for the Super Bowl with the football team.
“He had a tremendous season on the football field this year, and we’re hoping it will translate over to the basketball season,” Brown said.
“It wasn’t that hard making the transition,” Echevarria said of the quick turnaround from football to basketball season. “When I first came to practice I was a little bit off, but that didn’t last long and it all came back to me. But football season was amazing this year, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun.”
While hitting this milestone is a huge accomplishment for Echevarria, he still has his eyes set toward the rest of the season. The Spartans are now 1-1 after a solid win over Archbishop Williams Thursday night, and Echevarria thinks his team has the pieces in place to make some serious noise come tournament time.
“Our team this year is great,” said Echevarria. “We’ve got three kids over 6-foot-6 and they’re beasts in the paint, and we’ve got a lot of pieces around them too. I think we can go all the way this year.”