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Well before Buffalo Grove senior Enrique Loaiza made the basketball team in his final year in high school, he miraculously called his shot.
“When I was at Vanguard, I was talking to one of my counselors and we were looking at the varsity basketball team picture,” Loaiza said. “I told him: ‘I promise you I’m going to be on that picture’. I was going to do whatever I had to do.”
At the time, Loaiza wasn’t even a student at Buffalo Grove. Due to struggling to adapt to a heavy high school work load in his freshmen year, he left to attend Buffalo Grove’s alternative school, Vanguard. Loaiza readily admitted that in his first go at Buffalo Grove he “didn’t do anything” and he was “a bad student”.
Then he saw that picture and for the first time in his young life, he knew what he wanted. He was tired of sitting around. He was ready to start doing.
“He was really adamant on contacting me and figuring out when we had opens gym and preseason meetings and all the other things he had to have done,” coach Ryan O’Connor said. “He was really active in terms of getting himself involved. He came to all of our open gyms and I saw a kid who just loves to play and loves to compete.”
For every other varsity player at Buffalo Grove, realizing there dream of playing high school basketball only took a year. For Loaiza, it took four. But it’s remarkable that it even happened at all.
“It’s so impressive,” senior guard Luke Potnick said. “The reason he was able to do it is his work ethic and his personality. When you have a guy who comes in and works the team’s best players hard every practice and doesn’t have an attitude about the amount of playing time he gets, that’s why he made the team.”
Loaiza hasn’t seen the court much this season, but when O’Connor saw his star players going through the motions during a tournament in Elgin, he knew there was one player he could count on to play hard.
And just like that, Loaiza was a starter.
“The game before, I don’t want to say my teammates did bad, but it just didn’t seem like they were in the mood to play,” Loaiza said. “So coach put me in and I performed. I wasn’t doing anything on offense really; I was just hustling for the ball. That’s what I do. I was trying; I was just trying out there.”
It has been, all things considered, a fairytale story for Loaiza. From an overwhelmed high school freshmen to a varsity starter, his journey is one that probably should have never happened.
It all goes back to that picture, and a promise.
“I truly believe that basketball was the reason he made it back to Buffalo Grove,” O’Connor said. “For whatever reason, it just motivated him to do things he hadn’t been doing. He made up his mind that he was going to make the team, and here we are.”