March Madness: Latino Players Shine In College Basketball National Tourney

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March Madness is back on Tuesday with 68 teams vying for one crown – NCAA Division I Men's Basketball champion.

Florida, Arizona, Virginia and undefeated Wichita State are the No. 1 seeds, but everyone knows that upsets can spring out of any bracket.

A group of 10 or so Hispanic players will get an up close and personal view of the insanity, as they try to get their teams to the Final Four in Dayton, Ohio, and then to the championship game on April 7.

Here are some of these top players Fox News Latino took at look at, who stand ready to take over a game at any moment:

Shabazz Napier, Senior Guard, Connecticut

With a 17.4 scoring average and registering nearly 6 rebounds and 5 assists a game, the Huskies' 6-foot star was named player of the year in the premiere season of the American Athletic Conference and is a finalist for the Bob Cousy award as best point guard in the country.

What makes him more than just a skilled player? When Cincinnati guard Sean Kirkpatrick told reporters that he thought he should have been named player of the year instead, Napier replied, "I don't care about that. Those guys believe he won it? He can have it."

Although Napier grew up in Roxbury, Mass., his mother, Carmen Velázquez, is from Puerto Rico. Before an injury kept him from the 2013 FIBA Americas Tournament, Napier had been named to the Puerto Rican national squad.

At 26-8, UConn is the 7 seed in the East Regional; their first game is Thursday, March 20, against Saint Joseph's (24-9). His college career at UConn began with a national championship his freshman year, who's to say it won't end with another?

Tournament prospect: The Huskies have the advantage of being in a relatively weak bracket with No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 Villanova both seeming eminently beatable. If the Huskies can get past a possible match up against Villanova in their second game, the Final Four will be within their reach.

Mike Alvarado, Senior Guard, Manhattan; Emmy Andujar, Junior Forward, Manhattan

The school named Manhattan but which is actually located in the Bronx features two Latino players, starting point guard Mike Alvarado (12 points, 4 assists per game) and sixth man Emmy Andujar (8.5 points, 5.3 rebounds per game).

It isn't the first time Alvarado and Andujar have been teammates. Both grew up in the Bronx and they played together "a couple of times" Alvarado told Fox News Latino, at the AAU level.

Andujar – whose mother is Puerto Rican – grew up in the projects, and his father was sent to prison, then deported to the Dominican Republic. In April 2012, Andujar's older brother, José was shot and killed. One of the first people to arrive at the scene after Emmy was Manhattan Jaspers coach Steve Masiello. "There's this kid who's like a son [to me]," Masiello told the New York Daily News in December, "heartbroken and holding this framed picture of his brother."

But Andujar has used the pain and anger as motivation. "You can let yourself think about those things," he said.

Alvarado, who is Puerto Rican on both sides, pointed out that the No. 13 seed Jaspers (25-7) drew a tough opening game against No. 4 seed Louisville (29-5) on Thursday.

"They should have been a No. 1 or 2 seed," Alvarado said. "And the play a similar style to us, up-tempo and with a defensive philosophy."

Tournament prospect: Coach Masiello knows a bit about Louisville, having played at instate rival Kentucky and been an assistant coach for six seasons with the Cardinals. If he can engineer an upset, the Jaspers have a shot at reaching the Sweet 16.

José Rodriguez, Junior Forward, Texas Southern

Another Bronx, N.Y., native, Rodriguez is averaging 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds a game for the Texas Southern Tigers (19-14).

According to scouts, Rodriguez has explosive athleticism and stands an outside shot at getting drafted by an NBA team. In the first six games of the 2013-14 season, Rodriguez dropped 29 points on Texas Tech and 24 on Stanford.

Tournament prospect: The Tigers face 13-19 Cal Poly in the opening round (what used to be called a "play-in" game) on Wednesday. But, if they win, it's undefeated Wichita State on Friday. Should be a quick visit to the Tournament.

Eric Garcia, Freshman Guard, Wofford

First off, Wofford (20-12) is in South Carolina, and it has a short, but proud tradition of making the NCAA Tournament out of the Southern Conference. This is the third time in the last five years that the Terriers make it to the Big Dance. Much of the credit for this year's appearance can be laid at the Nikes of freshman point guard Eric Garcia, who averaged 7.4 points and 2.6 assists per game.

But his calmness under pressure isn't reflected in the numbers.

Garcia, whose dad is Mexican and mother is Italian-German, grew up in Aurora, Colo., and, he told Fox News Latino: "I was the biggest Tar Heels [of North Carolina] fan you could find in Colorado."

They lived five minutes from the movie theater where the July 2012 shooting took place, and Garcia remembers having gone to elementary school with one of the survivors. "I think he's playing football at college now," he said.

Often overlooked because of his 5' 11" frame, Garcia made the all-state team as a high-school senior and still got recruited by four Division I schools. His second campus trip was to Wofford, and he didn't make a third.

"I fell in love with the place and the people the moment I got here," he said.

After the Terriers won the Southern Conference tournament to earn a No. 15 seed, he said, "Girls started paying me a lot more attention, which is never a bad thing."

Tournament prospect: The Terriers face 25-8 Michigan (see below) in their first game on Friday. If by some miracle Wofford slips past the Big Ten champs, potential match ups with Texas, Duke and Wichita State await.

Jon Horford, Junior Forward, Michigan

Horford is about the same height (6' 10") and weight (250 lbs) as his NBA brother, Al, who is in his seventh season with the Atlanta Hawks. Their Dominican father, Tito, also played in the NBA in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Of the brothers, Al is the better scorer (14 points per game over his pro career compared to Jon's 3.9 points average this season), but Jon is a fierce defender and rebounder (4.4 rebounds in only 14 minutes a game to go with 26 total blocks).

So much so that he was named co-captain for 2013-14 by Wolverines coach John Beilein. In January, Beilein explained Horford's coming off the bench by explaining that the Michigan-born forward thrived in that role in a way that others on the Michigan roster didn't.

“Jon Horford, he likes that role [off the bench],” Beilein told “It doesn’t bother him one bit.”

Tournament prospect: Michigan (25-8) is the No. 2 seed in a strong bracket. If they can handle Wofford on Friday, they have a potential toughie against Duke in the Midwest Regional semifinal, but No. 1 seed Wichita State, while undefeated, is still relatively untested. Anything short of a Final Four appearance will probably feel like a disappointment.