Column: From red and black to blue and white

Column: From red and black to blue and white

I can already see him.

He’s dribbling up the court with his usual mad ferocity and intrinsic playmaking abilities. He’s still undersized and he’s still not entirely imposing, but it’s his sheer energy and fixed concentration that will allow him to win this drive.

In the process, he won’t be producing a highlight reel or constructing a clinic in shooting accuracy but something just as crucial will be in the works: a demonstration of how to win a basketball game with will power and devotion.

The environment surrounding him, though, is a little less recognizable.

Instead of a practice gymnasium or a half-filled hockey rink, there’s a stadium with multiple seating levels – and 19,000 people. Instead of a small scoreboard that screams “1980s graphics are still alive!” there is a Jumbotron. Bennet Davis isn’t in the paint and Bobby Kelly isn’t near the corner – it’s actually five-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. And instead of the red and black he wore in his four year reign as one of Northeastern’s all-time greatest athletes, he’s wearing blue and white.

Welcome to the NBA and the defending Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks.

Last Friday’s confirmation that Jose Juan Barea had edged out forward Ndudi Ebi for the 15th spot on an already deep, talented (and championship-contending) Mavericks roster made it official. It is the first time a Northeastern player is on an NBA roster since 1993 – the late, great Reggie Lewis’s last season with the Celtics.

The news is exciting for Husky fans who defended and praised Barea for his four unforgettable years on Huntington Avenue. There was always talk of Barea’s abilities and special contributions. But the confirmation that Barea is indeed a Maverick – and an NBA player – makes it all the more extraordinary.

Looks like well-respected Mavericks coach Avery Johnson is already learning what we knew here in Boston.

“He’s a feisty little player,” Johnson told The Dallas Morning News midway through October.

The road to the NBA for Barea was often in doubt. First, there was his size (6’0), weight (175 lbs.) and not entirely recognizable presence in first an America East – and eventually Colonial Athletic Association – school.

Then, after the end of his junior year, when it was in doubt whether he would return following a suspension for an incident in the America East Championship loss to Vermont, there were even more questions. Barea, who was capping off his finest year yet, was forced to miss the team’s first-ever appearance in an National Invitational Tournament game.

But the Puerto Rico native returned alongside coach Ron Everhart for one final year and was consistent as ever, averaging 21 points and 4.4 assists per game. He was named an AP All-American honorable mention and the CAA Player of the Year. And he forever placed himself in the same sentence as Lewis for Northeastern fans – as he finished second all-time to the ’80s star in career points.

The NBA Draft then came and went, and while Barea was projected as a possible late second-rounder by many analysts, but the dream did not come true.

Then Aug. 17 rolled around. The Mavericks came knocking on Barea’s door, signing him with the sole intention of having the guard battle for the final spot on the roster. The challenge was presented to Barea, and he wasn’t ready to waste it.

Years of unending determination, devoted passion and a general love for the sport were to be capitalized upon, and if it meant he would have to prove himself to Nowitzki and Terry – not his usual foes in a mid-major conference – then so be it.

“This is what I’ve been fighting for all my life,” Barea said in the same Morning News report. “It’s been a dream to be here.”

Barea’s presence in the NBA is a truly enlightening development for Northeastern. Here is a player with bona fide starpower for the Northeastern athletic department: a player who dominated, and a player – whether or not he carries on a career – who ultimately succeeded in his profession.

Here’s to the opening of a new NBA season.

And this time, with one of our own involved.

– Jeff Powalisz can be reached for comment at [email protected]

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