Alex Galindo has faced some tough times since committing to play basketball at Kansas University in April of 2004.
"It hasn't been smooth at all. I've been hurt ... coach is yelling at me and stuff. I keep hanging in there," Galindo, KU's freshman guard/forward from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, said with an ever-present grin.
Galindo, who has worked himself into the regular rotation, had surgery early last summer to repair a broken left wrist. Once that properly healed, the 6-foot-7, 205-pounder suffered a severe groin pull that forced him to miss the first 24 practices of the preseason.
When Galindo finally did begin practicing, he didn't catch on quickly, temporarily lodging in coach Bill Self's doghouse for what Self said was not "responding to things he had to do to earn minutes."
"I wasn't working hard," said Galindo, who during one downer of a practice was banished to the showers early. "I didn't accept it that well, but everybody goes through that. I talked to coach and knew I was wrong. I knew I had to work harder on defense if I wanted to play in the games."
He's played double digit minutes in three of KU's past four games heading into Wednesday's 8 p.m. home contest against Texas A&M.;
"He is playing tough, battling, scrapping," Self said of Galindo, who had six points and seven boards in Saturday's 70-68 overtime win over Georgia Tech.
He's starting to play like A&M; coach Billy Gillispie envisioned.
Gillispie signed the St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) High standout in November of 2003 when Gillispie was head coach at Texas-El Paso.
"We thought when we signed him he could play for anybody in the country, and it's playing out that way. What a great kid," Gillispie said of the sharpshooter billed as one of the top signees in Miners' history.
"The shot he made against Georgia Tech ... he'll never forget that shot the rest of his life," Gillispie added of the three-pointer that sliced a four-point deficit to one in overtime Saturday.
Gillispie was hoping Galindo would be drilling threes for his team, but the player had no interest in following him from UTEP to A&M.; Self, who tried to recruit St. Benedict's teammate J.R. Smith, became involved when UTEP assistant Sergio Rouco took the head coaching job at Florida International.
Rouco was instrumental in first bringing Galindo to the United States.
"I wanted to be open again and look around, try to get some bigger schools (involved). I had a good season and thought I could play at a higher level," said Galindo, who the second time around chose KU over Pitt, Rutgers and Georgetown.
Galindo -- he's averaging 5.9 points and 3.0 rebounds a game with 20 points and 14 boards in his last two games -- is a late bloomer who grew up playing baseball and volleyball, not basketball, as a youth in Puerto Rico.
"I was shortstop and pitcher. I was a pretty good defender, but couldn't hit," said Galindo, who like most sports fans in his homeland has great admiration for Puerto Rican Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.
"He's like Wilt (Chamberlain) is here," Galindo said, comparing the former Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder to the former Jayhawk.
Galindo took up basketball when he was 11 and a handful of years later decided to venture to the U.S. to hone his skills at St. Benedict's.
One small problem.
"I couldn't speak English," said Galindo, who reported the first English word he learned was "thanks."
"It was hard the first five months. I took some classes, basically learned it from hearing other people, reading books."
The funny thing is had he paid attention, he could have become fluent back home. His mother teaches English in Puerto Rico.
"I never thought I'd come to the United States," Galindo said with a grin. "She would help me on the phone with my homework."
Galindo's parents, it turns out, steered him toward hoops.
"He was always the kid with a lot of energy," his mother, Socorro, said. "He was always jumping and doing things that he wasn't supposed to be doing. We had to find something to waste his energy, so we set him up in basketball, and he really loved it."
Now he's a fan favorite at KU. The fieldhouse exploded when his three in OT hit nothing but net.
"It's the greatest game, the most intense game I've played in. I was happy I was able to help team beat a great team like Georgia Tech," Galindo said.
Folks back in Mayaguez responded just like the KU fans.
"My whole town was going crazy," he said. "A lot of people called. They were mad, too."
"At the free throws. I was mad at the free throws," said Galindo, who missed four charities down the stretch. "I wasn't even nervous. I'll make 'em, though."
Teammate and roommate Russell Robinson believes that will be the case.
"I think he plays with a lot more confidence now," Robinson said. "He's a lot more gutsy and playing a lot harder. He's basically just a happier person.
"I think he's happy with what he's doing, and he's doing it right. He just feels good that he finally got what coach was trying to get (through to him) the whole time."