D’Angelo Lavalais credits basketball for allowing him to avoid trouble when he was growing up. “I stayed in a bad neighborhood when I was growing up,” said Lavalais, a senior at Winston-Salem Prep. “I wanted to avoid it, so I went to the courts to play with friends.”
He started on the junior-varsity team at Prep his freshman year and moved up to varsity last year. He has also played at the Hanes Hosiery Recreation Center league.
Lavalais, an honor-roll student, said basketball is an escape for him. “When I’m playing basketball, I’m in a different zone when I’m on the court with people,” he said. “Basketball is a sport that gets you out of everything you’re going through.
“I like the fact that you can share that with other people. It’s a great feeling.”
Lavalais hasn’t seen any action in Prep’s first 12 games, but maintaining a positive attitude is vital. It’s one of the major things that disappoints him when he sees others failing to do so.
“If I could change anything in basketball it would be the attitude of some players,” said the soft-spoken Lavalais. “A lot of people come out mad and play aggressive,” he noted. “Basketball was made to have fun. You don’t need to take it out on other players on the court.”
Adjusting to the standards Coach Andre Gould demands from his players wasn’t what Lavalais expected. “It was more running, more drills,” he said. “It was really more mental than physical. It was a fight mentally that you have to beat.”
Arising for the 6 a.m. practices was a big part of that mental challenge. “It was hard to beat at first, but you know you’re the only team in Winston doing it,” he said. “Of course, it helps me be more disciplined, more responsible. Coach makes sure we accept that responsibility, or we run.
“If someone is late, we run, and nobody likes to run at 6 a.m.,” he continued, laughing. “We learn life lessons like how to be on time. It’s more than about a sport.”
Lavalais said that wearing the Prep uniform is an honor.
“Even though I don’t get to play I see my teammates go out there,” he said. “It’s an honor to be a part of this team. When my time comes, maybe I’ll play or maybe I won’t. But I wouldn’t give up. I wouldn’t quit. When I put that jersey on my back, I don’t know how to describe it. I’m honored to put that shirt on my back, to say I’m part of the Prep family.”