Basketball practice different at Apache Junction High School than in Puerto Rico


Luis Colon Rivara goes up for a lay-up during practice on Nov. 2 at Apache Junction High School, while Carlos Orengo looks on. (Photo by Arianna Grainey, Independent Newspapers)

For two Apache Junction High School basketball players, Hurricane Maria making landfall in Puerto Rico affected their school day.

“I didn’t feel good,” Luis A. Colon Rivara said. “The day that it happened I started crying thinking of them (his family still there). My history teacher told us if we want to watch the news, (we could).”

Luis and Carlos Orengo are two freshmen who moved from Puerto Rico to Apache Junction this summer. The two boys are from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, which is on the northwest side of the island. Carlos is the godson of Luis’s father, Dr. Jorge Colon.
Their move was because of a job offer that Dr. Colon had in San Carlos, Arizona.

“I am a doctor over there at the reservation in San Carlos,” Dr. Colon said.

He is working as a family practitioner, providing services to the Native Americans living on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, he said. Dr. Colon came to the Valley in May and was staying on the reservation but his family joined him in July after he had gotten the home, he said.

It is about 76 miles from Apache Junction to San Carlos, but he selected AJHS based on the school’s education and sports.
“I love basketball, my kids love basketball,” Dr. Colon said. “That’s why I decided to come here.”

“I like everything here,” Luis said. “More opportunities and I like the school, the program and I like coach.”

Carlos said he liked it here because he and Luis got to stay together because they were best friends.

“That’s another thing, they (people in the school) don’t treat him differently. He doesn’t speak a lot of English. They don’t treat him like a stranger, they treat him like family,” Luis said of Carlos.

Luis said his friends in the basketball program have helped him with his English.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to speak English,” he said. “It was because I was afraid. I learned my English from the TV.”

“I understand a lot,” Carlos said. He is not comfortable speaking much yet, he said.

Adjusting to the competitiveness of Apache Junction basketball has been a challenge for the boys as well.

“The other teams (in Puerto Rico) were like ‘the coach just got here let’s practice’ and then practice just ends and they say nothing to us,” Luis said. “Here we go to practice, we talk, we communicate with each other.”

“Here is so motivated,” Carlos said. “The coaches here are so harsh, so strict. Here I like it.”

“Coach is like my dad,” Luis said of Coach Scott Stansberry. “He is always curious if we are learning more English. He can speak Spanish to us because he has family that speaks it. But what my dad told him is ‘don’t speak to them in Spanish because I want them to learn more English.’ He’s my English teacher in practice.”

Dr. Colon also likes Coach Stansberry.

“He is a fabulous guy. He is a pro in every sense of the word,” he said. “He cares about those kids. He is very involved.”
The season is still a few weeks away.

“I have played some scrimmages, but I want to play in the season with them,” Luis said. “How it feels when coach is mad and everything.”

Luis said his family is planning to stay in Apache Junction and is encouraging the rest of his family and Carlos’s family to come to Arizona.

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and can come to the U.S. as easily as mainlanders move between states, according to the Library of Congress.

“We were lucky, I had just accepted this opportunity and had avoided lots of problems,” Dr. Colon said.

Dr. Colon said his remaining family, as well as the whole island, is struggling with the lack of supplies. His mother is taking care of his bedridden grandmother and sister who has cerebral palsy.

“We keep helping her, by sending stuff from here, but it takes so long,” he said. “The postal service is running with a delay. Every time we send something to her it may take up to seven weeks even though we paid for priority.”
Dr. Colon said his family had access to a generator but his brother had to stand in line for hours every few days to get gas.

“Right now they are selling gas,” he said, “At the beginning you might stand there for three to four hours for like $15 in gas.”

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