The following is second in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Marco Banegas-Flores can still remember going on his Irving middle school basketball team field trips to watch Jose Juan Barea cement his name among the best point guards to play in a Northeastern jersey.
He can still remember how he would rush to the Curry Student Center with his O’Bryant teammates to take in the exhilarating college atmosphere.
The historic Matthews Arena may have just been feet away, but playing on the same court that Reggie Lewis and Barea had played on might as well have been a fantasy for the undersized, Dorchester-native point guard.
“If someone told me in high school my freshman year that I’d be playing for Northeastern with a chance to play in the NCAA tournament, I wouldn’t believe them at all,” Banegas-Flores said.
After a sophomore year that included a CAA regular season championship, an NIT appearance and seven starts in a Husky uniform, Banegas-Flores can happily say he was wrong.
“I’m big on my faith and just knowing that if you do the right things, you have a positive attitude, then things will go well for you,” Banegas-Flores said.
The former city league student athlete did not have the typical journey to Division 1 athletics. In fact, Banegas-Flores, who will be a junior this fall, didn’t find himself with a consistent playing time as a freshman at O’Bryant.
“We all knew the abilities that he had, he just had to take his time and there were certain things he had to learn in terms of how you play the game the right way,” former O’Bryant coach and math teacher Jose Figueroa said. “Once you learn how to do that, obviously it’s worked out tremendously.”
In just the next year, Banegas-Flores found himself leading the Tigers to the second round of the state tournament, their most successful season during his tenure. That, and winnings the South Division two out of his four years marked his proudest moments as a Tiger.
To his gratification, they weren’t his proudest moments as an athlete. Upon his senior year in 2010 Banegas-Flores was accepted to the Brimmer and May prep school in Chestnut Hill.
It would only take one year before Banegas-Flores would trade in his green and white colors for black and red and fulfill a long awaited dream.
The point guard still proudly represents his community.
“Marco has an extremely strong sense of community,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “He’s very proud of his Boston roots and I think that pride has come from his community service.”
During his short tenure with Northeastern, Banegas-Flores and his teammates have held various basketball clinics for the Boston community, including the Tobin K-8 School.
While the Husky is proud of the work he has put in, he said that none of it would have been possible without the guidance from his older brother, former O’Bryant player and current New Jersey Institute of Technology student, Chris Flores.
“I play basketball because he played basketball,” Banegas-Flores said. “He’s a role model on and off the court for me. He’s a really good student, A’s and B’s, he really keeps his nose clean, staying out of trouble so I just followed in his footsteps and it got me where I am today.”
According to Banegas-Flores, him and his brother shared a common value for academics during high school that was key to their success.
“I definitely hear the same kind of critiques about the whole inner-city school system and athletics within the city,” Banegas-Flores said. “The recourses are there.
“It was well-known if we wanted to pursue basketball in school, we had to be well educated.”
For a city league student that didn’t have the Boston Scholars Athletes program growing up, Figueroa is certainly proud of his former player. Not just for getting accepted to a Division 1 program, but also for handling adversity.
After starting the first seven games of his sophomore campaign, Banegas-Flores’ playing time dwindled upon the return of Northeastern’s starting point guard Jonathan Lee and the emergence of freshman point guard David Walker.
“From the conversations I’ve had with Marco about his playing time and his future, he’s handled it like a man,” Figueroa said. “He’s definitely grown in to a man that understands the big picture.
“He’s made a commitment to a team and although it may not be going the way he wanted to right now, he knows he’s a part of a team and he’ll do whatever it takes to be a part of that team.”
About Boston Public Schools Sports BlogMore »
- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.