Altoona grad Raymond finishes solid career

Juniata men’s basketball coach Greg Curley spent this past weekend at the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament savoring Alex Raymond’s final moments in an Eagles uniform.

The Altoona graduate, who won more games than any point guard in Juniata history, wrapped up his collegiate career with an 11-point performance in a 91-80 victory over Albright in the ECAC finals.

“He’s been the rock of this program,” Curley said. “From the day he stepped on the court here, he’s been a leader. I think we’ll truly realize what he meant to the team when he’s gone.

“He’s been an extension of the coaching staff since he’s been here. He’s been a winner and brought the program to a new level. His impact will be felt for a long time.”

The Eagles fell to Catholic in the Landmark Conference championship game by a point but were selected to the ECAC tournament. Juniata’s three wins there gave it 21 for the season, a school record.

“Obviously I would have liked to win a [Landmark] championship,” Raymond said. “But winning the ECAC tournament [means] a lot, because that’s a first for us at Juniata.”

Raymond finished his career near the top of many Juniata statistical categories. The 5-foot-7 guard is second all-time at the school in assists, in the top five in 3-pointers made and among the top 10 scorers.

The senior started every game of his collegiate career except one and was named to the second-team of the Landmark Conference All-Star squad in his junior year.

However, Raymond tends to ignore his stats.

“Individually, I’m happy, but it’s more so because of team goals and stuff we have done as a team,” Raymond said. “The teammates and friends I’ve made is something I wouldn’t have passed up for anything the past four years.”

Raymond’s defining moment at Juniata came earlier this year in a game against Farmingdale State in the finals of the Doc Greene Tournament on Dec. 8.

“Alex scored his 1,000th point, and we were playing a team that finished 26-3 and has an NBA prospect,” Curley said. “They were undefeated at the time, and they stopped the game to present him with the game ball. He held it for a second and said, ‘I don’t care about this, I want to win this game,’ and he tossed the ball away.”

The Eagles did win, impressively, 81-61. Raymond had a team-high 22 points in the game, but as his career evolved at Juniata, points became less of a focal point.

“He’s almost re-invented his game,” Curley said. “When he came here, he was a big-time scorer, and he did score more than 1,000 points here, but his game has changed and he’s become more complete.

“He’s more of a defender. He’s helped develop other guys and learned how to run a team.”

The past few summers, Raymond has helped lead a Juniata entry in Altoona’s Mansion Park basketball league.

“I’ll miss everything about playing at Juniata,” Raymond said. “Offseason pickups, our Mansion Park team, the two hour practices you hate when you’re having them and all the moments with everyone.

“The group of guys who are coming back next year are good. I hope they can learn from my mistakes and keep going in the right direction.”

Though Raymond, who has been accepted into medical school and is waiting to decide which one he will attend, won’t be playing for the Eagles next year, Curley said his impact will still be felt.

“He was a role model for these guys, and he’s such a hard worker,” Curley said. “He teaches guys to prepare and be successful. He’s made great decisions on and off the court and is someone who was always available to the guys.

“He set the standard of what a leader is.”

Despite the rigors of medical school, Raymond doesn’t plan on staying away from the court for long.

“Our alumni have a team in the Mansion Park league, and I’ll play with them,” Raymond said. “Even with med school, I’m sure I’ll get involved. I love it.”