HAVERHILL — Jaylin Alicea is back on track again.
But last month, when the Northern Essex sophomore from Lawrence was playing in the Knights’ preseason jamboree in New Jersey, he wondered if he was off it for good.
Alicea, who sat out last year while becoming academically eligible, was playing defense in the Knights’ third game after standing out in the first two games, when tragedy struck.
“I was just waiting for my man and I shaded over to my left side and then I felt it,” said the 5-foot-9 Alicea. “I knew right away it (foot) was broken. I’ve never felt such pain.”
And the physical pain probably wasn’t as bad as the emotional pain.
“I didn’t think I’d play basketball again,” said Alicea. “And it crushed my family, my friends, even the community. They were looking forward to coming to see me.
“I was so excited to be playing again after last year. I was ready to get on the court and happy to be playing against good competition, looking forward to the challenge, and then it all seemed to be over. I was really down about it.”
Time tends to heal most wounds, however — even emotional — and, with support from his teammates, Alicea has since pulled himself out of the dumps and is thinking positive.
“It took me about two weeks to look at it differently,” he said. “I’m still young (20-years-old) and I know I’ll be back. I’m still motivated because basketball is my ticket to a better life. I’ll rehab and be back stronger. The plan is to come back (to Northern Essex) next year and make something positive out of it.”
This is good news not only for Alicea, but for Northern Essex coach Darren Stratton, who considers Alicea — who was All-Scholastic as a senior Lancer and had a sensational state tournament — as one of the best players he’s ever had.