Visiting the gym at St. Raymond's high in the bronx is a little like spending an evening with Aunt Martha and her vacation slides. The walls are decked with a massive tribute to the travels of the nationally-ranked Ravens basketball team. But amid the plethora of Polaroids, one snapshot in particular, of 6'6" center Orlando Antigua, catches the eye. He is standing knee-deep in the turquoise surf in Honolulu, wearing a pair of blue trunks, a snorkeling mask and the smile you would expect to find on a 17-year-old kid from the South Bronx who suddenly finds himself in Hawaii.
"Traveling is like a dream for kids like us," says Orlando. "I've had grown-ups come up to me and say, 'I'm 45 and I've only seen Hawaii in the movies.' You have to shake your head when one day you're on a tropical beach, and the next you're back here walking under the el tracks."
Thanks largely to Orlando and his teammate Terrence Rencher, the two senior leaders of the Ravens, St. Raymond's has had several memorable trips. The Ravens, 19-2 at week's end and ranked No. 13 in the nation by USA Today, have dribbled circles around tournament competition in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alabama, Missouri, California, Alaska and Hawaii over the last three seasons. "These kids learn so much on the road," says coach Gary DeCesare. "Travel has all sorts of benefits."
For one thing, it's safer. Forgive Orlando if he's looking forward to leaving New York City to play for Pitt next season. On Halloween night 1988, he and a friend were walking down a street in the Bronx when they were attracted to a commotion in front of an appliance store. Orlando stood up on a car bumper to get a better look and was shot by a store employee who mistakenly thought Orlando had thrown an egg at him. The slug entered Orlando's skull near his left temple.
"In the ambulance I was thinking, Don't close your eyes," he says. "I've seen too many movies where you close your eyes, and phffft, it's over."
The doctors decided that extracting the bullet would be too dangerous, so it remains lodged behind his left ear. With typical Bronx cheer, some of Orlando's less tactful pals have taken to calling him B.H., which stands for Bullet Head. His view of the incident is simply, "Stuff happens."
Since his brush with the hereafter, he has made some pretty good stuff happen for St. Raymond's. Not only is he the Ravens' second-leading scorer (15 points per game at week's end), but he's also the student body president.
Terrence, a 6'3" shooting guard who averages 17 points per game, is bound for Texas in the fall. His confident swagger on court is often compared with that of his idol, former New York City schoolboy star Kenny Anderson. Says Orlando, "When a game gets to crunch time and everyone's going nuts, Terrence is the collected one. I'm a little hyper."
Terrence, in turn, draws inspiration from his teammate. "Orlando has such a good attitude that we try to use his experience as motivation," says Terrence. "The message is, you've got to take advantage of your opportunities because you might not get a second chance."
Since surviving a gunshot to the head, Orlando (right) has been an inspiration for Terrence and the rest of the Ravens.