Larkin’s Christian Negron was in the midst of enjoying the final stages of the recruiting process.
The enjoyment –– the courting, the official visits, the love he was receiving from the schools who were still deeply involved with him, the attention he was receiving –– was well deserved. Negron had earned it based on how he played and carried himself on and off the court.
Those who have watched him play in high school have always come away appreciating his effort and hustle. Negron plays the game the right way, always competing and battling, going about his basketball business in a blue-collar way.
He was poised for a monster senior year after averaging 16 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks a game last season as a junior.
But that senior season abruptly ended before it began as Negron, a long, athletic, high-motored 6-6 forward, tore his ACL while playing in a fall league this past Sunday.
Does it surprise anyone that the injury occurred when Negron was hustling back, sprinting to the other end of the floor to make a block following a Larkin turnover? It’s the type of play and an example of why Negron was so appreciated as a player and teammate.
Negron has been a model student-athlete. His success on the court has been matched by his outstanding work in the classroom.
When you talk with any college coach who has recruited him over the past few years, the superlatives about Negron the person, his character and personality were what stood out in the conversation. Then it would lead into Negron the player.
Within moments of my Tweet regarding his season-ending injury, there were a half dozen high school coaches who texted me how bad they felt for him because of how he played and who he was as a kid.
There is a genuine respect for Negron, even from rival high school coaches, you just don’t see every day.
St. Charles East coach Pat Woods was one of those coaches who reached out following the news.
“It’s sad because he’s a great kid, competitor and leader for his team and program,” said Woods, who faces Larkin and Negron in the Upstate Eight River twice a season. “You hate seeing any kid miss their senior year. It’s very disappointing as he’s a player you look forward to playing and competing against.”
For the past three years Larkin coach Deryn Carter has raved about his star player to anyone who would listen. He would never talk about his on-court ability without mentioning the type of kid he was off of it.
“Since the day he entered high school he was a player who received a lot of hype,” says Carter. “But you would never know it from his work ethic to his coachability to how he was as a teammate. In this day, where a lot of other hyped kids quit working hard or don’t want to listen, Christian was the complete opposite.”
Those characteristics were why the likes or Oregon State, DePaul, Bradley, Loyola and UAB were all in on Negron, who is among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2017.
While it’s devastating for both Negron and Larkin’s season, Carter has no worries going forward when it comes to the best player he’s coached in his seven years as the Royals coach.
“He’ll come back even stronger from this,” says Carter, “because that’s exactly the type of kid he is. He will learn, work hard and become better because of it.”
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