Ex-Antelope Ramos Lands Pro Hoops Contract With Mexican Team
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
You could call it Marco’s Big Adventure.
The opportunity for Marco Ramos to play professional basketball in his native Mexico came seemingly out of nowhere, and the former Antelope will report Saturday to Los Halcones Rojos (the Red Hawks) in the gulf city of Veracruz.
However, it’s nothing compared to the upheaval of having your father leave home and moving at the age of 4 with your mother and two older brothers to a new country — and then living with 14 extended family members in a two-bedroom house.
That was a much bigger adventure.
“At the Texas border, I remember crying and being scared,” says Ramos, whose splintered family left tiny Chavinda, in the Mexican state of Michoacán, for Salinas, Calif.
“I didn’t know anybody. But the first day (in California), I was out there playing soccer with my cousins. … I always find the positive in things.”
His relentless optimism quickly became familiar to GCU students, faculty and staff after the opening of the Student Recreation Center nearly two years ago. With his athletic eligibility completed, Ramos began work alongside Chuck Howard as a fitness trainer and activities coordinator at the Rec Center, eventually becoming the facility’s evening manager.
“Marco’s a humble guy who’s willing to learn,” says Howard, who oversees the strength and conditioning of GCU’s athletes. “He has a heart to serve.”
Ramos, 25, became a master encourager of everyone who came through the Rec Center’s doors, from athletes pushing their physical limits to middle-age managers trying to shed 10 pounds.
“He’s so upbeat and social, everyone likes him,” says T.J. Benson, who was Ramos’ teammate at Weber State University and GCU and has returned to campus as an assistant coach for men’s basketball.
“He can become friends with a complete stranger. That’s the effect he has on people. I couldn’t be happier for him. I’ve been telling him to go and do this.”
The 6-foot-7 Ramos kept himself in top shape all the while — he’s famous for riding his bicycle everywhere — and played in weekend tournaments in Los Angeles with a team of players he has known since high school. Little did he know that the Veracruz team, which won Mexico’s top professional league last February with a 34-6 record, was taking notes.
After a tournament over Memorial Day, an offer was made.
“They said they had been scouting me for a year,” Ramos says. “It’s one of the most well-established teams in Mexico, with a lot of sponsors. That’s what you look for, or it could be iffy getting paid.
“I have a good sixth sense about things, and I think it’s time for me to do this.”
The team, which originated 40 years ago, plays in Mexico’s Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Professional (National Professional Basketball League). Former GCU star Horacio Llamas, who was on the roster of the Phoenix Suns for two seasons in the late 1990s, is still playing in the league at 39.
Ramos says that he and his brothers — Ramon, 35, and José, 34, both still in California — contribute to the support of their mother, Maria, 55, who has been unable to work recently because of injury. For years, she pulled double shifts at a produce packaging company in Salinas. She became a U.S. citizen last summer.
“I talk to her every day, even if it’s just for one minute,” says Ramos, who plans to use the surname of Ramos-Esquivel henceforth to honor his mother’s family. He says he has promised his mother that he will complete the remaining coursework for his college degree.
His “ultimate finish line,” he says, is to run a gym and to continue to train athletes and weekend warriors alike.
“I have a saying that I tell my friends,” Ramos says. “If I have a penny and you need a penny, then my penny is yours. I find joy in people being happy. I like seeing them get better, physically and mentally.”
Although he hasn’t seen his father since the age of 9, he says, “I’d like to meet him now to say, ‘This is what you missed out on.’”
His final day on campus is Friday. He’ll be missed.
“I’ve always looked up to him,” says Brad Carroll of the GCU men’s basketball team. “He holds himself to a high standard. But he also knows how to stay positive and encourage others even when things aren’t going his way.”
Let the new adventure begin.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or email@example.com.