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LI Lutheran boys basketball's Andre Curbelo is Newsday's Athlete of the Week

Junior point guard is a throwback, pass-first floor general.

Long Island Lutheran's Andre Curbelo flies up the

Long Island Lutheran's Andre Curbelo flies up the middle as Long Island Lutheran defeated Westbury at Long Island Lutheran High School on Dec. 12, 2018. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Andre Curbelo is a throwback to a bygone era of basketball.

The Long Island Lutheran point guard isn’t trying to mirror what’s dominated pros recently, with floor generals looking to create their own shots. He’d rather make plays for those around him.  

“I always like to feed my guys, I don’t like to shoot first,” Curbelo said. “I’m a point guard that if you pass me the ball, I will feed you. If you need to get 30 points, I will make you get 30.”

His unselfish style was on display Wednesday, as the junior led the Crusaders with eight assists to go along with 14 points as host Long Island Lutheran defeated Westbury, 82-31, in non-league boys basketball to be named Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.

But Curbelo can drive the lane and create his own shot from the outside as well, something coach John Buck at times even wants the guard to do more.

“He’s such a pass-first guy that I sometimes have to encourage him to demand and stay in attack mode,” Buck said. “But as he’s learning to do that, he’s getting to be really, really good.”

Curbelo, who has drawn interest from schools such as Florida, University of Connecticut and Illinois, assisted on Wednesday’s opening two baskets, featuring an alley oop toss to Tyler Stephenson and following it up by driving the lane and setting up Stephenson for a three-pointer on the ensuing possession.

“It’s like poetry in motion,” Stephenson said. “When me and him are playing well, it rubs off on everyone else. It makes me think about things I can add to my game. That’s how good Andre is.”

And Curbelo credits how he spent his summer to improvements in his game, as he represented Team Puerto Rico in July’s FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina. The experience was even more special for Curbelo after the devastating hurricanes which hit his native land.

“Last season I had it on my shoes, I play for Puerto Rico, I do this for Puerto Rico,” Curbelo said. “Last year I did everything for them, this year I’m doing everything for them, too. It was a tough time, but we fought through and now we’re ready to go.”

The 6-1 player was named to the All-Star Five, as one of the five most outstanding players in the tournament, after averaging 13.6 points and a tournament-best 5.9 assists per game in leading Team Puerto Rico to a bronze medal.

“I love my [homeland of Puerto Rico], so that was a great opportunity for me,” Curbelo said. “It means everything. I love basketball, but when I play in that jersey, it makes me feel even better and I love the game even more.”

And even Buck admits there are times he finds himself in awe of what Curbelo pulls off on the court.

“There’s just so many things you can’t teach,” Buck said. “A lot of people see his layups or passes, but defensively, some of the reads he makes are incredible. Both athletically and mentally, he’s two steps ahead of everyone and it’s exciting for me to watch. Sometimes I get caught up just seeing what he’s doing.”

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