SCHENECTADY — U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado took his suit coat off and took some jump shots Thursday evening in the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons gymnasium where he once excelled for a championship basketball team.
His first attempt, from about 12 feet away, swished through clean.
"I still got it," the tall and lean 43-year-old Delgado said.
Delgado was hopeful that the young men he had spoken to just a few minutes before got it, too. While his message to the Golden Knights varsity and junior varsity boys' basketball teams touched on his own playing days, it focused on a much bigger picture -- that great things and difference-makers can come from a city like Schenectady.
Delgado, after all, is the living example.
"Be disciplined. Even if it's something you don't enjoy, do it over and over and over. Stay the course. Keep your head down and work," Delgado told the Golden Knights teams. "Without that, I wouldn't be where I am today."
Public service is the latest venture for the Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame member, whose election in the spring of 2018 was based on his numerous accomplishments, both on and off the court.
"I wanted to show them that somebody from this school, this city, can be a positive role model," said Bishop Gibbons varsity boys' basketball coach Steve Garzone, an Averill Park graduate who played AAU against Delgado. "He went to Colgate and Harvard. He got elected to Congress. This guy worked his tail off."
"I grew up in Schenectady," Delgado said early in his mid-court address to the teenagers that had gathered around him. "My parents worked at GE. Cut coupons. I remember begging my mom for a nice pair of shoes."
Delgado talked of the adversity he faced and overcame in his time at Bishop Gibbons, at Colgate where he earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, and at Harvard where he gained a law degree. He later went into that field, and he also spent time in the rap business before embarking on his political career.
"Make yourself uncomfortable," Delgado said in his address. "Embrace it. Lean into it. Don't be afraid to put yourself in unfamiliar situations."
Noah Foster kept his eyes glued on Delgado as the Bishop Gibbons grad spoke, and the senior later rebounded for Delgado during that brief round of jump shots.
"He has a lot of wise words. I think people can learn a lot listening to him," Foster said. "It's pretty special that he came in here. Being someone who has accomplished as much as he has. I will cherish this moment for a long time."
"I am thrilled that he is giving back to the school," Bishop Gibbons athletic director and girls' basketball coach Pat Moran said. "All of the things he's done representing our school is such a positive thing. He is what a Bishop Gibbons graduate should be."
Hanging on the gym wall where Delgado spoke is a banner that honors his 1993-94 team that won the school's first Section II boys' basketball championship and notched a state regional victory afterward. Delgado, then a junior, collected 13 points and 13 rebounds when the Golden Knights beat Schalmont 58-45 for the area Class B crown.
"This brings back a lot of memories being in this gym," Delgado said. "It's been a long time."
This season's 14-2 Bishop Gibbons varsity team has a goal to emulate Delgado's sectional title team.
"I can see the hunger in you," Delgado said to the group. "There will be difficult moments. There will be challenges. There will be frustration. Don't run away from it. Run to it. There will be opportunities to grow."
Garzone and his wife, Kristen, extended an invitation to Delgado to speak to the young men.
"They reached out and I thought it would be a great opportunity to connect and help them realize their own power," Delgado said. "They've got to be ready to go. Got to be ready to take it on."