Photo of Alex Romero. Holding a basketball in his right hand, he smiles wearing a black hoodie standing in front of a blue mural at an outdoor basketball court.
Alex Romero. Photo by William Jenkins

On any day during the afternoon, you can catch Alex Romero, a senior at Leadership High School, shooting free throws on the basketball court at Jose Coronado Playground, at 21st Street near Folsom Street. The 17-year-old wears a black hoodie, purple mesh shorts and gray Kyrie Irving basketball shoes.

“My feet are too wide for these shoes,” he tells me while dribbling a faded Spalding basketball.

“Wanna play a game of 21?”

“Sure. Let’s run it,” he says, rolling the ball toward my feet.

With the ball slightly deflated, I take a semi-contested jump shot and sink the ball.

“Nice one,” Romero says.

That was the last time I scored.

A Mission native, Romero has played basketball all his life. He plays baseball a little bit, too, “but it’s not basketball,” he says. His favorite position is small forward; the player who does a little bit of everything on the court.

“I used to play center because I was bigger than everyone else. I need to get taller and improve my athletic ability,” he says. Romero moves to the right, then crosses over and goes to the basket for a left-handed layup. The ball pulls a toilet bowl, but falls out. Romero grunts.

“I was robbed,” he says as he spreads his hands out for his defensive stance.

“Do you care if I take the ball back to the three-point line?” I ask, clarifying the rules of the game. 

“A lot of people make it a big deal to take it back. I don’t really care; let’s just play,” he says.

Romero’s road to getting taller goes far beyond just being able to play more positions. His goal is to go to school on a basketball scholarship and ultimately, play in the NBA.

“I want to not only have fun playing basketball, but I also want to represent where I come from,” he says.

Like most of his peers, he favors Warriors all-star Steph Curry, but he really appreciates and looks up to lesser-known players in the league.

“A lot of really great players are often overlooked because of the all-stars on the team. Look at Andrew Wiggins; he’s overlooked, but he’s a great player!” he says. Romero pulls up to the free-throw line for a jump shot; the ball drops right into the net. 

“I would be so happy if I made it to the NBA. That would be amazing,” he wears a wide smile and looks off into the distance. “The first thing I would do is get my mother something. Either my mom or dad or just anyone in my family. I would get them something before I get it for myself,” he says.

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Intern Reporter. William moved to the Bay Area from Nashville to pursue a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley. He's covered police reform in Oakland and also investigates correctional officer misconduct at the Investigative Reporting Program. You'll mostly see him behind a camera. Follow him on Twitter @WilliamJenk_

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