LYNN — Jalen Echevarria freely admits he’s a gym rat. It’s something he inherited from his father, Marcos. They’re both cut out of the same cloth, he says.
So Wednesday, when he was asked whether he thought he could handle the transition from high school to college, when the level of commitment is greater, the St. Mary’s senior basketball star was quick to respond.
“I think it’ll be great for me,” he said. “You don’t always have access to the gym and to the weight room in high school, but up there I’ll have access all the time.”
Echevarria, who finished his high school career with 1,507 points, signed his letter of intent to attend Endicott College in Beverly Wednesday. He said the school is a good fit for him.
“I got to know the coaches (head coach Kevin Bettencourt and assistant Luke Richards), and when I went up there the players accepted me right away,” he said. “Plus, it’s close to home, and I wanted to be close to home.”
His St. Mary’s coach, Dave Brown, who is also his uncle, said his nephew is in good hands.
“It’s tough to play at any level in college,” he said. “Endicott is a great program with a great coach. He’s in great hands.”
What made the decision particularly difficult for Echevarria was that as the process reached its climax, he was in the middle of a state tournament run that ended — for his purposes — prematurely with a Division 3 North semifinal loss to Dracut.
“It was difficult,” he said. “I had coaches contacting me through the tournament. It was tough telling them that I was going to a different school.
“Now that I’ve made the decision, I’m happy,” he said. “All that pressure is off me now that I’ve finally picked a school.”
The Gulls, a Division III school, play in the Commonwealth Coast Conference in New England.
Echevarria entered St. Mary’s as an eighth grader, and fell in love with the school immediately.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” he said. “I wish I had one more year. This has been a second home to me. When I came here, I didn’t know anyone, and I made friends right away.”
As a freshman, Echevarria was on the state championship team that defeat Maynard. A year later, the Tigers returned the favor in the state final, and, as Echevarria ruefully notes, that left him in second place in the family championship rivalry.
“My father won two with Classical,” he said. “I only have one.”
Echevarria said playing for his uncle presented a unique challenge.
“It was good and it was bad,” he said. “I thought I got it from him more than the others on the team because I’m his nephew. But in the end, I know he cares and he wants what’s best for me.”
His uncle said he couldn’t be prouder.
“He’s had a tremendous high school career,” said Brown. “I’m excited that he’s going to continue, and play at the college level.
“We had a lot of success over the past five years, and he’s been a big part of it,” Brown said. “We’re going to miss him a lot, but we’re happy for him. I’m proud of him, not just as a coach, but as an uncle. He’s accomplished a lot.”
Brown said the St. Mary’s community played a big part in his nephew’s success.
“Five years ago he came to me about going to St. Mary’s and without the help of (former Head of School) Grace Cotter Regan and others, that wouldn’t have been possible. I also have to thank all of his teachers for turning him into a student-athlete and making this possible.”
Echevarria said his two proudest moments were the 2016 Division 4 state championship and scoring his 1,000th point last December.
“The championship was the best,” he said.
He said coming up with his biggest disappointment was easy: losing this year to Dracut.
“We were loaded,” he said. “We were ready. But we lost. I don’t think we played as a team the way we should have.”