When Carlos Morales Jr. was 8 years old, he and his mother would pass by a homeless man asking for money in their hometown of Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Day in and day out, his mother Awilda Alvarado demonstrated a caring attitude toward the man, cooking extra breakfast for him while pouring words of encouragement into his life.
At the time, Morales couldn’t grasp why she continued to invest time into a man who ended up back on the streets, but, as he grew older, he began to understand. Now, he coaches basketball and lives life with the same principles in mind.
“I was the perfect example of a momma’s boy. Going to college sometimes, she would even pick out my outfits still because that’s how I was,” said Morales, a 2014 graduate of UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program. “Anything I can do to help and give back. I know that would make my mom proud.”
The philosophy led Morales to become a basketball coach and skills-development instructor at age 16.
“He was coaching a 12-and-under [American Athletic Union] team [when] he was 16 — still a high school player,” said Carlos Morales Sr., his father and a Spanish-language basketball analyst at ESPN. “He was not only telling them about basketball, but telling them about life and how to conduct themselves.”
Even after his mother’s passing in 2011, he strives to live by the beliefs she instilled in him.
Following his first full season as a professional coach with Capitanes de Arecibo, a team in Puerto Rico’s top professional league, Morales founded International Basketball Training, a Central Florida-based company established to train and develop athletes to reach their maximum potential.
“There’s a lot of training today that’s about impressing parents with tricks, but they still can’t score four points in a game,” Morales said. “Teaching athletes how to play the game the right way is the backbone behind IBT.”
IBT has gained steam since opening, acquiring support of coaches from around the world as well as NBA talent. Players, such as 2006 20th NBA Draft pick and Puerto Rico National Team member Renaldo Balkman, have jumped aboard the IBT express to help train campers.
“What I try to tell him is, ‘Don’t be afraid to be an outlier — the guy that works the hardest, the guy that’s always busting your butt,’” Morales Jr. said.
Campers have the opportunity to become players like Joseph Chealey, the second-leading scorer for the NCAA Division I’s Charleston Cougars last season who has been under the eye of Morales since he was in high school.
“Younger guys lack fundamentals. One thing I think he emphasizes is being able to handle the basketball, knock down shots [and] doing the simple things,” Chealey said. “In training, he always put me in situations that would translate to the game.”
As a grad student maintaining a 3.8 GPA at UCF, Morales led Chealey and his team, the 17-and-under D12 Warriors, to a third-place finish at the 2012 AAU Boys Basketball National Tournament, battling it out with 2014-15 NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins.
With lessons from his two-time Olympic Games head coaching father and compassionate mother, Morales’ journey is just beginning as he is now in the midst of a playoff run with Capitanes de Arecibo.
The team is down three games to two in the league finals.
Christopher Davis is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.