Almost as unlikely as Liberty University’s NCAA Tournament appearance is the improbable story within the story of Flames big man J.R. Coronado who has taken a winding road from Venezuela to Lynchburg to Dayton for Tuesday night’s game against North Carolina A&T.
J.R. Coronado grew up in Caracas, Venezuela where baseball was his first love.
“I was pretty good. I thought I had a future in baseball,” Coronado said.
But a shoulder injury ended his dreams of becoming a big league pitcher. So he picked up another ball and started to shoot the hoop.
“I love basketball more than anything right now, the teamwork. We're sewn together like a family and it just feels great,” Coronado said.
While not the Flames most gifted offensive player, J.R. admits he is still learning the game. But he is the team's most important rebounder, and a vital part of Liberty's unlikely story.
“He is a different kind of guy but he is an unreal athlete,” Liberty University guard John Caleb Sanders said. “He belongs out here with us. He's 6-8 and probably our biggest player and he's still picking up stuff on the game. But his aggression and his energy and his ability to rebound have made him one of our most effective bigs.”
Coronado added: “It's a dream come true. I've always dreamed about this moment. I never thought I was gonna make it. When I was 15 I didn't even play basketball. So it's a big part of my life right now.”