EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 4, 2013

Lawrence basketball player used sport to persevere while homeless

LAWRENCE — Karisha Jimenez feels at home on the basketball court.

“I love the game and I love to play,” says the Lawrence High junior guard, smiling, of course.

For several months last year, the basketball court at Lawrence High was her home as she and her family lost their home during summer 2011 after being unable to pay the rent. The state moved them into the Best Western in Haverhill.

“Basketball was going to be her out — her way to fight through what was going on so she wouldn’t have to be at the hotel as many hours,” Lawrence coach Dan Blouin said.

Jimenez added, “I’d rather play basketball than be where I was.”

Jimenez almost always smiles while playing basketball. And she used the game to persevere during about a six-month period last school year when she and her family were homeless. She said basketball helped her get her mind off everything else.

“There is a drive in her that should inspire everybody,” Blouin said.

Jimenez’s family was evicted during August 2011.

“We had 42 hours to move,” Jimenez said. “I was scared, nervous. But I didn’t express my emotions because I know my mom would’ve broke down. ... She always told me it was going to be all right — that things happen for a reason and God’s always going to be with us.”

Jimenez’s mother Carmen Villegas added: “My income was still low even though I was working. It wasn’t enough for my rent. And I have other kids. Karisha has a little sister and an older brother that I take care of, too. So it was kind of hard.”

The family pulled through it. They now live in a three-floor building on Alder Street in Lawrence.

The difficult experience Jimenez went through makes her play harder and with sort of a chip on her shoulder, Blouin said. He added that Jimenez was a leader on last year’s team despite the squad having several older players. Throughout this past summer, Jimenez led all the captain practices. She is a returning starter.

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