Monday, January 26, 2009

Mount Pleasant's Billy Soriano Has Big-Time Hoop Dreams

Nice story right here on the Hoop Dreams of Mt. Pleasant High School's Billy Soriano. We all know that some kids put all their stock into their hoop dreams the same way others put it all in their street dreams, so let's hope this kid has success in hoops, but also get that college degree as well. Story is via Bill Reynolds of ProJo Sports:

PROVIDENCE — The basketball dream starts early.

It started for Billy Soriano back when he was just a young kid in South Providence, back before his mother died, back before he began to see things no kid should ever see, back before all the AAU teams and all the people were in his ear, back before all the dreams that now lie out there in the distance like the Emerald City.

It started for Billy Soriano back before he could handle the ball as though it’s a yo-yo attached to his hand, back before he learned to throw passes that speak of some gifted basketball IQ.

The basketball dream starts early.

It started for him when he was only 5 or 6. He had been born New York, but already was living here by then, the son of a Dominican father and a Puerto Rican mother. He was going to be a basketball player.

No matter that he was small and slight, just a wisp of a kid. No matter that the inner city is full of kids whose basketball dreams are sacrificed on the altar of crime and dysfunction, a Darwinian world of no grades and limited opportunity.

Virgilio Soriano, whose mother always called him Billy, was going to be a basketball player.

“My mother died when I was nine, and one of the last things I said to her was that I was going to be rich and famous and be on television some day,” he said. “I remember it like it was yesterday. This is why I’m doing what I do. I’m doing it for her.”

The words come out in a verbal fast break, the words all but tumbling over themselves. It was Thursday night, minutes after his Mount Pleasant team had beaten Central, a game the sophomore hadn’t played in because he had missed practice the day before.

For the basketball is just part of it in the Billy Soriano story.

The easy part.

Even if to be a kid now with big basketball dreams is to be in maze, a complicated journey that includes AAU teams and showcase tournaments and college recruiters with the power to change lives. A journey that can be a minefield even in the best of times, not just for an inner-city Providence kid who lives with a father who speaks Spanish.

The basketball dream is complicated.

But it’s the real life that’s the most difficult.
Video: Soriano, Mount Pleasant dismantle Cumberland

Three years ago, Soriano played for an AAU team called Team Providence, one whose mission statement was to increase the classroom skills of inner-city youth, a team that was all about trying to get their kids to understand that education is the passport to a better life, not basketball.

He surfaced a year later in a column colleague Bob Kerr wrote about a Providence middle school team called UCAP that beat a South Kingstown middle school team called Broad Rock for the state title, even though UCAP had no gym. Seems the team had been on their way to the game when Soriano discovered he’d forgotten his sneakers. So they turned around, went back and got Soriano’s sneakers, arrived just minutes before the game started, shedding clothes as they walked into the gym, and won the game.

And Soriano?

“He is rail thin and incredibly quick, and he just kept driving through the Broad Rock defense,” Kerr wrote. “He is a player to keep your eye on.”

The basketball dream is a long process.

Soriano had missed practice last Wednesday because he had been at Notre Dame Prep, the Massachusetts school that is one of the region’s pipelines to college basketball. Suffice it to say that Chris Coleman, the Mount Pleasant coach, hadn’t been overly thrilled with the news.

“I’d like him to take things a little slower,” Coleman said. “He’s out there. Everyone knows him. It’s going to be there.”

Then again, it’s probably not surprising Soriano’s in a rush.

“I became a man before I should have been,” he said. “When I was 12 on the playground, I was playing with gangsters, guys who had been in jail. But basketball was my savior. It kept me out of trouble. It kept me out of gangs. It kept me off the street. Instead of going out, I’d run suicides by myself. I’d work on my handle.”

Basketball as life raft in a swirling societal sea.

He pauses, and again the words come out in a flood.

“I can’t be here,” he said, looking around. “Too many distractions. And I get so easily distracted. I’ll be sitting there in class and someone will tell a ‘yo mama’ joke’ and I’ll just go off. There are just too many things going on in my neighborhood. I’ve had coaches tell me I’ll never make it because I’m too ghetto, too in-the-street.”

The men around him, the ones who coach him, say it’s not a matter of ability, only a matter of maturity. From his high school coaches, to Jason Elliott, who coaches the Rhode Island Hawks AAU team, they see his basketball gifts, his quickness, his ability to pass, the things you can’t teach. They see the potential, even if he’s only 5-foot-9, and that might be on a good day.

“He has a very high basketball IQ,” says Tom Conner, the former La Salle All-Stater who is the Mount Pleasant assistant coach. “He’s got the ability to create. But he’s got to listen to the people trying to help him, and not just the people talking to him.”

They all know it’s all about maturity for him now, both off and on the court. To make good decisions. To realize it might be more important what you do off the court than on it. To realize that the line between those who make it to college basketball and those who don’t can be a very thin one, one that often has little to do with whether your jump shot goes in or not.

The basketball dream is not an easy dream.

Even for kids who have grown up with it.

“I’m going to make it,” says Billy Soriano. “It was the last thing I said to my mother. And she’s always in my memory, always in my head.”

The words seem to hang in the empty gym.


  1. i know billy he goes to my school now here in miami, florida.... the man has talent ive never seen in my life i have gym with him.... he truly does have a gift.. and hes not 20 i think hes still 16

  2. im the best in the state

    im the god of basketball!!!

    - jose perales

  3. yea right jose lol

    -kobe bryant

  4. no Jose perales is sick he could def go d 1 central hated on him hard i watched him for breakers for a breakers tourney he was givin teams 30 like it was nothing he gave some team 43 not dicking him but he does got talent just wasn't noticed i honestly thought in the right hands and coached right he could of been all state from his sophmore year he just wasn't givin a chance. He recieved a basketball interest letter playing jv it was from wheel lock college what kid do u know gets interest letters on jv the dude caa play with the best thats for sure

  5. One moment, I'll post mine soon. just wanted to say I love your new site!