Darius Benitez is Filipino and lives in Monterey Park. Jaden Erami is part Hispanic, part Japanese and lives in Lincoln Heights. Ryan Osborne is Black, Irish, Hispanic and Filipino and lives in Rosemead. They’ve known each other since second grade, brought together by their love for basketball.
They’re 16-year-old ballers at Don Bosco Tech, where Benitez studies 3D animation and the other two are learning architecture, construction and engineering. They’ve learned through sports that you need each other to succeed.
“It’s almost like a universal language,” Osborne said. “It puts our differences away from everything. We unite together.”
Said Benitez: “We’re all different but playing the same game.”
Added Erami: “It’s the greatest thing ever, basketball.”
Bosco Tech won the Southern Section Division 5AA championship last season, and with 11 of 13 players returning, plus the addition of fabulous freshman Kenneth Martinez, this is a team on the rise even though no one is taller than 6 feet 2.
Dismiss them at your own peril. Their lack of size makes them hustle harder for rebounds, play defense with passion and take immense pride in beating teams with much taller players.
Michael Romo is the coach. He’s a Bosco Tech graduate who teaches at a nearby elementary school. He started in 2011 as the freshman coach, became the JV coach and then took over as varsity coach in 2018. His players are dead serious, unflappable and willing to get down and dirty.
Benitez, a 5-9 junior point guard, is the glue on and off the court. He makes outside shots, drives and dishes and defends the opposing team’s best player. He drew two offensive fouls guarding Lynwood’s outstanding freshman, Jason Crowe Jr., last season.
Erami, a 6-2 junior forward, has improved his outside shot and has the jumping skills to deliver dunks. He averaged 19.2 points last season.
Osborne, a 6-1 senior forward, arrived from Mark Keppel High last season and became the Santa Fe League most valuable player, averaging 22.6 points. He likes to play inside and be physical.
The three know each other so well that they remember all the comedic things about each other growing up.
Like Benitez never shares food or snacks.
“I got to eat,” he said. “Look at me.”
Osborne used to have a mohawk haircut and wear green tights in sixth grade. Benitez insisted Erami didn’t pass the ball to him when he was wide open as a 7-year-old.
Of course, their friendship is tight.
“I say he’s really loyal,” Benitez said of Erami.
“If something bad is going on with you, he’ll ask what’s wrong and cheer you up,” Osborne said.
Erami said Osborne “brings light into a room” and Benitez is “like my brother. Through ups and downs, he’s there for me. He always has my back.”
If chemistry means anything in basketball, Bosco Tech is on another level. Benitez could close his eyes and probably know where Erami or Osborne is on the court.
“At all times, he knows where I’m going to be,” Erami said.
Benitez has confidence to approach Erami or Osborne if either is in foul trouble or getting frustrated, ready to provide encouragement or constructive criticism. That’s what trusted teammates and friends do.
Bosco Tech is moving to Division 3A this season. No one is concerned. The players welcome the challenge.
“They may be taller, but nobody is going to outwork us,” Erami said.
The basketball season begins in a month. Bosco Tech will be ready.
“If we’re having a bad day, just pick up a basketball,” Erami said. “That’s all we need.”
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