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José Alvarado: How a Scrappy New York Guard Earned His Way into the League

José Alvarado might be one of the most intriguing players in the league right now. A rookie guard for the New Orleans Pelicans, he has blown up multiple times all over social media for his on-court swagger and sneaky defensive play. His very impressive recent play has pushed the Pels front office to locking down the rookie for the forseeable future, as they recently offered him a four-year, $6.5 million deal, including $3.4 million guaranteed over the next two years. This is a huge jump for Alvarado, who previously had a two-way contract with New Orleans and had been on a 10-day contract at the time of his signing.

Alvarado’s gritty play can be attributed to his gritty beginnings in Brooklyn, New York City, where he learned from a young age to play tough and unrelenting basketball as a short guard. He was originally a dual-athlete, starring both in basketball and football, but focused in just on basketball as a teenager following a neck injury during a football game.

In his final years of high school, Alvarado’s talents were finally able to be shown on a national scale, as the Puerto Rican sensation averaged 17 and 18 points per game in his junior and senior years, respectively, for Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village, Queens. Alvarado also went on to win Player of the Year in the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) in the 2015-16 season, and earned his went to a 4-star rating by ESPN.

Before the beginning of his senior season, Alvarado made his decision to commit to coach Josh Pastner and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. He chose Georgia Tech over other premiere programs closer to home, including Rutgers and Seton Hall.

Joining the program in 2017, the 6’0″, 180 lb. guard made an immediate impact for the program, starting in all 25 games that season and averaging 12.1 points and 45% field goal shooting, overachieving numbers for a freshman. In his sophomore campaign, Alvarado averaged 12.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and lead his team in scoring, assists and steals. Despite two great years from him, the Yellow Jackets were disappointing, finishing under .500 in both seasons.

In his junior season, he bumped up his scoring, averaging 14.4 points to go with four assists per game, earning him Third Team All-ACC honors. Despite a 17-14 record, Georgia Tech was banned from postseason tournaments due to infractions by the basketball program in past seasons, stripping Alvarado of his hopes to make a postseason push.

Determined to finally make the tournament, Alvarado did all he possibly could in his senior year, averaging a whopping 15.2 points, while shooting 50% from the field and 39% from 3. Alvarado’s improved play earned him ACC Defensive Player of the Year that year, and despite finishing 9th in the conference, the senior guard helped Georgia Tech go on an absolute tear during the ACC Tournament, which they won, earning them an upset bid into the NCAA Tournament and a 9-seed. Despite losing to Loyola Chicago in the first round, Alvarado finished his career with a bang, helping the Yellow Jackets to an overachieving season. 

After a spectacular college career, Alvarado decided to declare for the 2021 NBA Draft and forgo his extra year of college eligibility. Hardly any mock drafts had him getting drafted, and as expected, his name was never called. However, two months after the draft, he earned his shot, signing a two-way contract with the Pelicans on August 19th.

Since then, Alvarado has not disappointed, averaging six points and 2.7 assists in limited minutes, and has shown off his talents on both sides of the court, with efficient shooting and nagging defense. Alvarado’s story is one of a classic underdog, who has worked his way up. At his current rate, the Boricua guard is bound for stardom.

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