Southern Miss happy to have Neftali Alvarez back in the fold

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 12:27 AM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Fans who have followed Southern Miss basketball this season have come to know names like Felipe Haase, Austin Crowley and DeAndre Pinckney.

But the X-factor for the Golden Eagles could very well be Neftali Alvarez.

The junior transfer from Mercer was one of coach Jay Ladner’s major recruits last summer but was injured during USM’s third game of the season. After a long rehab which included a three-week trip to his home country Puerto Rico, Alvarez returned to the lineup on Thursday against South Alabama.

His scrappy play in the Golden Eagles’ last two wins drew comparisons to the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jose Alvarado, a fellow Puerto Rican.

“I’m trying to do whatever I need to do to help this team win games,” Alvarez said. “I didn’t play in a long time, this is literally my second game back. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to help this team.”

“He’s got such an explosive first step and he’s strong and gets to the basket,” Ladner said. “But I got on him a little bit because I thought he passed up a couple shots in there that he had open layups to try and make the extra play. At the end of the day, I love that because that’s what we’re about. We’re about family, we’re about sharing the basketball, making the extra pass and he’s certainly that guy. But he just brings an element to our team that we haven’t had because he’s been hurt.”

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