Sixteen-year-old Alfred Medina moved from his native Puerto Rico in January of 2021 to join the junior class of SPIRE Institute and Academy, a sports boarding school in northeast Ohio, near Lake Erie. At 6’5” tall, the gifted basketball player says he was thrilled to be enrolling in one of America’s elite boarding schools for student athletes.
He was less thrilled, however, with the Ohio winter weather! In Puerto Rico, despite the fact he played for school and club teams seven days a week for several hours, Alfred always managed to get to the beach each day without fail. Motivated by his ultimate dream of eventually getting to the NBA, Alfred substituted workouts in SPIRE’s Performance Center and hours of practice in the gym for beach outings– an investment of time and energy that has already increased his strength, enhanced his agility and upped his game considerably.
“John Wallace at SPIRE’s Performance Training Center put a really good program together for me,” says Alfred. “I’ve always been really skinny, but I’m picking up weight, building muscle and getting more flexible. One of the things I bring to the court is that I can shoot, but I’m getting better and learning to jump higher– it’s all because of the work I’m putting in here with the staff.”
In addition to the SPIRE staff, Alfred credits his mother, Angeline Rodriguez, and his stepfather for helping him take this next step in his basketball career. “A few years ago, I was following LaMelo Ball on Instagram,” says Alfred. “And I saw that he was playing at SPIRE. I told my parents about it and they looked into it. I am really lucky to have parents who are so supportive and invested in helping me be the best student and athlete I can be.”
Alfred says it took a lot for him to leave the warm, familiar island of his birth, but moving from Puerto Rico was necessary for him to become the basketball player he wants to be. “I’m 6’ 5”, which may sound tall…and in Puerto Rico, it is. Due to my height, I was always put in the game as a forward– or ‘big guy.’ But I knew that I was never going to succeed at the highest levels of basketball in that position, I needed to develop my guard skills– a chance I wasn’t going to get in Puerto Rico. Coming to SPIRE, where I’m not even close to the tallest guy on the team, has given me a chance to get better playing the position where I’m more likely to succeed.”
While he adapted quickly to life in SPIRE’s on-campus housing, working out, practicing and competing at home and on the road, academics proved more challenging for Alfred. Taking classes in English, which is his second language, was initially a stumbling block for the hard-working junior, but the SPIRE Academy staff gave him extra help and attention that soon got him over the hump.
Doing well on the court as well as in the classroom is important to Alfred, who understands the importance of a Division I college education where his talent can be showcased and noticed. So far, he has shortlisted the University of North Carolina, Duke University and the University of Kentucky, but looks forward to more advice and guidance from SPIRE’s placement team when he returns to school in the fall for his senior year.
When SPIRE classes wrap for the semester in late May, Alfred is looking forward to returning to Puerto Rico, where he says he will need all summer to thaw out after his first American winter. Chances are he’ll also find the time to play a little basketball in between visiting his friends and catching up with his family.