As American sports continue to diversify, basketball is a sport in which the Latino footprint has grown significantly. This especially holds true for college basketball at the NCAA’s Division-I level. Today, there are a total of 100 Latino players spread over the 351 teams at the Division-1 level. Surely, a sign of the times and the games growth. From potential NBA Draft picks, to key role players, to those just starting their college careers they all have excellent stories to tell.
This freshman forward from Loyola-Chicago is probably the most unique player on this list. He played his high school ball at Larkin High in Elgin, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago and his talents earned him a spot on Puerto Rico’s national team. He’s also played in the 2016 FIBA Americas U-18 tournament where he led “La Isla” in both scoring (13.4 PPG) and rebounding (13.6 RPG). However, upon returning home he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee causing him to miss his entire senior year, but he hasn’t let that stop him from getting a scholarship to LUC.
“I tore my ACL in September,” Negron told ‘LLERO. “I tore my ACL in a fall league game. I was set back a little bit from my injury, so I’m just trying to get back to where I was before.” Despite wearing a heavy brace on that knee, Negron has been able to play at full speed without any issues but he illustrated that he’s still working on his conditioning. He averages nine minutes per game and is part of a deep 10-man rotation of players (a rarity in the college game) under head coach Porter Moser.
Negron was born in the Chicago-area but his parents came from Puerto Rico which is still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Negron says his family that remained on the Island was spared considering the intensity of the storm. “They were able to get over to Miami with all that has happened down there…. Thankfully they didn’t get hit too hard, if there even is such a thing (in that situation), “ he said. Negron hopes to return to Puerto Rico’s national team someday. “I couldn’t play (for the Under-19 team) because of my injury. I really hope eventually I can play and represent Puerto Rico again. I think I could (play in the Olympics) because I thought I played really well for them.”
He also aspires to play professionally. “I want to play the game as long as I can,” Negron said. “If I can make some money playing the game, that will be ideal, that will be great. My game is still growing though,” he added. When asked about the growth of Latinos playing basketball Negron says that playing in the Americas Tournament was a big eye opener in that regard. “That was a huge culture shock for me when (I played for Puerto Rico). You always hear about baseball being the number one sport in Puerto Rico especially and in Latin America. I noticed now that more and more people are leaning towards basketball,” he says. Negron currently holds the distinction of being the only Latino player out of all Chicago-area D-1 teams which includes Northern Illinois, Northwestern, DePaul, Illinois-Chicago and Chicago State.
We are looking forward to see more of Negron this season and in the years to come.