Angelica Velez, Exodus AAU, Class of 2023
New York City is synonymous with great guards. Names like Pearl Washington or Nancy Lieberman, among many other great guards, certainly come to mind.
If you drive through the city, you will see about as many parks with outdoor basketball courts as you will food trucks, and trust me, that’s quite a bit. In New York City, basketball reigns. With the AAU season having recently started, and with it picking up steam later this month and into the summer months, there’s one guard that hails from The Bronx, NY, that is bound to turn some heads, and that’s eighth-grader, Angelica Velez. Get to know that name, because if you haven’t heard it already, you will soon.
Velez, class of 2023, plays AAU with Exodus NY, a Nike EYBL program, and for Coach Dominique Nute. I first came across Velez at an AAU tournament in the summer of 2017. I noticed her terrific handle, her quickness, her toughness, her swagger, and her ability to play with style on the offensive end, while playing lockdown defense on the other end.
The 5’6″ point guard, while being a dominant defender, is a three-level scorer on the offensive end. I haven’t seen many kids her age be able to handle the ball with such precision and intent. When Velez has the ball, she always has a plan. Whether it’s getting to the rim or getting her teammates involved, Velez is in control. While the Bronx guard is most closely associated with Exodus, she will be heading to play for Coach Derek Marchione and the Putnam Science Academy Mustangs in the fall.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to Velez, whose nickname is “Jelly,” and while her game speaks for itself, I had a blast talking to her. This kid exudes confidence. While exuding confidence, Velez remains humble and focused. She didn’t start playing organized basketball until she was 10 years old, and her first team was Exodus. Before starting her basketball career, Velez was a football player.
“I love football,” she said. While I would’ve loved to have see Velez compete on the football field, her love for basketball began immediately when she joined Exodus. Velez, who said that her parents have played an impactful role in her life, also talked about her AAU coach, Dominique Nute, who she says, “motivates me to be great.” I caught up with Coach Nute, who did nothing but rave about Velez. “Angelica is special. She has a non-stop motor. Her fiercely competitive nature, and high basketball IQ, make her not only a great player, but a great leader,” Coach Nute said.
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Coach Nute and I both have our opinion of Velez as a player, but I wanted to know what she thought. When I asked her to describe her game, here’s how she described her game, she described herself as a “great defender” that is a “pass first point guard that loves to get others involved,” while noting that she will always strive to “make the best decision to help the team win.” I want everyone to know and realize that this kid can flat out score, but that’s not her focus. She wants to be a lock down defender, a leader, and a team player that makes everyone else better, that CAN score…at will I might add.
The move to go to Putnam Science was a big one, as she will be moving away from home.
“It’s going to give me an all around experience. I love the coach and the culture, and know I’ll grow and mature while I’m away,” she said. The Mustangs, while just completing their second year with a varsity program, burst onto the scene on a national stage. They’ve gone 44-17 in two years, playing an extremely difficult regional and national schedule, while sending 11 girls off to play college ball, including 10 scholarship student-athletes. “On the court, I love her (Velez) toughness, confidence and swagger,” said Coach Marchione, when asked about why he wanted to recruit Velez. “Off the court she’s quiet and has a humbleness about her, which I think says a lot about her as a person, because of the notoriety she’s received.” That notoriety is about to get even bigger as Velez heads into the summer set to play against some of the best girls in the country in her class.
We talked for a while about her goals and things she wants to accomplish. Her first answer was, “I want to dunk.” While I know that she said that with a smile, she went on to say, “I want to get better everyday and play Division One ball.”
Velez, who was in Tampa during the Women’s Final Four, playing in the Elite Girls Basketball event, talked about having a chance to watch Chloe Jackson of Baylor play. “She competes, defends, and plays with fire,” Velez said. Not only that, but Jackson, as we know, saved her best performance for when she was needed most in the Women’s National Championship game against Notre Dame. Something that, according to what I’ve seen and been told, Velez is no stranger to doing as well.
When her team needs her most, Velez is the one that steps up. You won’t see many kids her age play with the toughness, swagger, craftiness, and intensity that Velez does. I asked her what her reaction is when she hits a big shot in the game. Her response, along with her game, is what is going to separate this kid over the next few years. She said, “well if it’s to win the game, I’d probably jump around and celebrate with my teammates. If there’s any time left on the clock, I need to lock someone up.”
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