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Former St. Ray’s duo enjoy new life at Las Vegas school

If Jose Rodriguez wasn’t sure he made the right decision by leaving St. Raymond for Impact Basketball Academy and Trinity International HS in Las Vegas, he was convinced one day in late August.

The 6-foot-6 swingman walked into the state-of-the-art basketball facility just off the Las Vegas strip one morning to see none other than Kevin Garnett on the sideline, talking trash during a scrimmage. Another day, there was O.J. Mayo working out. Another time, Rodriguez saw Chauncey Billups putting up shots.

“I was like oh my god,” he recalled. “I’m getting the best training I possibly can.”

The program is under the Impact Basketball umbrella, a training center for college and pro basketball players created by renowned trainer Joe Abunassar.

Of course, Rodriguez and Joey Delarosa didn’t just leave St. Ray’s for the top-notch training, it was also to rid themselves of all the distractions that come with being a part of a major high school program in New York City. Delarosa had missed time because of poor academics and Rodriguez said he clashed with coach Oliver Antigua.

The two found a home in Las Vegas, the last place most people would go to prepare for college. But Rodriguez and Delarosa know little about the renowned Vegas strip and its dozens of casinos.

Instead, the two spend their days at Trinity International, a private school of no more than 115 students, and with Impact Basketball Academy, where the same people that drilled Garnett, Mayo and Billups are pushing them in workouts.

“You only have school and basketball; that’s it,” Delarosa, a 6-foot-10 forward, said. “There’s a lot of kids in my school that say we can go to this casino or we can go to this place to hang out. But I just play basketball and stay home.”

He added: “I have no choice.”

Delarosa and Rodriguez live with their teammates in a building filled with dorm rooms. Their diets have changed – less fast food and more vegetables and protein shakes. They work out twice a day, before school and afterward, mixing in weightlifting, running and skills training.

They have played close to 40 games with Impact Basketball Academy, winning 25 of them, Tucker said. Tucker has seen steady improvements in both Delarosa and Rodriguez, not only as basketball players, but as leaders, too.

Rodriguez and Delarosa like their new home – the discipline it has instilled in them on the court and in the classroom, the opportunity it has afforded them to meet pro and college players, and most of all, the chance to work with people like Tucker and Abunassar.

“It was a big transition, but I’m doing something I love,” Rodriguez said. “I do everything the pros do. It’s preparing me for the next level.”

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