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The Orlando Sentinel

Torres Hopes To Break Hoops Barrier

by Rupen Fofaria

December 3, 2000
Copyright © 2000The Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

Randy Torres remembers scouring the sports magazines for a picture. Every time he watched a basketball game, he remembers scanning the jerseys for a recognizable last name or, perhaps, a face with similar complexion.

He never found it. Now, he wants to be it.

Torres was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Milwaukee when he was 3. His family decided they needed a warmer climate, though, and the Mainland basketball player found a new home in Deltona.

Torres knew from an early age that he wanted to play basketball, but he never saw any Hispanics in the game -- not in college, not in the pros. So for some time, he wondered if he could be any good at the sport.

"All my role models were the same role models all the other kids had," he said. "I wanted to see one of my own people out there playing. I wanted someone from my background to look up to."

His skills got sharper as he grew taller, and soon enough he found himself wowing junior varsity coaches at Pine Ridge. He played varsity last year and was one of the Panthers` leading players, but the 6-foot-6 forward didn`t think he was getting enough exposure there. He decided to transfer to Mainland.

"I want to play college ball," he said. "Playing college ball is a must. If I can get a free ride, that`s even better because I know I want a good education, too. But I want to play. I want Hispanic kids to be able to see me on the court and say, `I`ll be like him.` "

Torres has received some interest from schools -- mostly Division II and III. However, Marquette, a Division I school which finds an audience on television, has sent a few letters.

"If I had my choice, I`d like to go to UNC [University of North Carolina]," he said with a grin that acknowledges the odds. "But Marquette is cool. I just want to play somewhere where I can be seen, and I can get an education."

In a time when much of the NBA`s talent shies away from the label "role model," Torres offers a rare treat. His speed and height allow him to be a great rebounder. His work ethic has allowed him to solidify a shot. And his tenacity is a tremendous asset for him when playing defense. But really, the greatest thing going for him is character. He wants to be a role model.

"I think it`s important to give back to the community you come from," he said. "I think I have a talent in basketball, so I think that`s how I should try to give back."

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