Raised in between Manhattan and the Bronx, Hector Velez, also known as “Pito” developed his love for wallball (also known as american handball) at the early age of 13. His Mom used the sport as a way to improve his surroundings once she realized a lot of his friends were gang members. By the age of 16 Pito realized he had a way to earn a little extra cash and provide for himself hustling on the court. He says the sport of wallball practically saved his life…
Congratulations to our Player of the Week- Hector Velez!
In his own words:
“As a young man I use to hang out with gangs in Harlem. This is a story I almost never tell because people that know me know what kind of a person I am. I’m almost ashamed to admit it but witnessing my friend getting shot is what opened my eyes. After that I spent more time on the court and less in the street. Every time I got allowance money I would go to Castle Hill every weekend to play money games. At one point I started failing school and my Mom gave me an ultimatum to do better or she would keep me away from the courts. So not only did it keep me from returning to the streets but it also was used as a tool to help me do better in school.
People often find it difficult to play at a competitive level while maintaining their everyday life. I work for the Department of Education as a custodian in public schools 5am-5pm Monday through Friday. After work my body is extremely tired but I push myself to play in order to become better. That’s how I was able to land 3rd place out of 100 pros in King of the Court and 1st place out of 224 players at Red Bull Slaps. The nature of my job has me a lot more active. Also, I began working out to get myself in better shape. It also helps when people doubt you. It gives you motivation to prove them wrong!
Today I get a lot of fulfillment by mentoring others that love the game. While growing up a lot of the guys I was around use to ask us to play for money just to be able to get on the court with them. I’m not that type of player. I play a lot at the Grand Street courts in China town and players ask for games all the time. That’s my way of giving back to the game that gave me so much. I just do my best to be a good example and pay my life lessons forward.”