Minaya family hoops all the way to Sweet 16

March 25th, 2022
Justin Minaya

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Over the past few weeks, former Mets general manager Omar Minaya has traveled from New York City to Buffalo, back to New York and on to Chicago, where he landed Thursday night. While this may seem like a typically hectic schedule for a baseball scout, Minaya isn’t crisscrossing the country for baseball reasons.

Instead, he’s been soaking in the basketball run of Providence College, which is scheduled to play the University of Kansas on Friday in the NCAA Sweet 16. Minaya will be in attendance to root for his son Justin, a forward on the team, as he has been for nearly every Friars game this season.

“I’m more nervous watching my kid play than anything else in the world,” Minaya said in a telephone interview from Chicago. “Watching the Mets play made me nervous, but watching the kid play is definitely more nervous.”

For the first four years of Justin Minaya’s collegiate career, he started and logged significant minutes at the University of South Carolina. But Minaya opted to transfer for several reasons, including both competitive considerations -- he longed to play in the Big East, at Madison Square Garden in New York and in the NCAA tournament -- and personal ones. Coming to Providence would mean playing more frequently in front of his family and friends.

That of course has included his father, a deeply rooted New Yorker who considers himself “a big basketball fan.” In addition to games, Minaya often attends his son’s practices, sitting high in the arena so he can evaluate players.

“I’m a scout at heart,” Minaya said, noting that before his son’s transfer, his last trip to Providence was in the early 1990s to work out future Marlins executive Michael Hill. “I love scouting, so if I’m there, I’m watching, scouting, everything. People laugh because when I go to the games, I sit where the scouts would sit, way up in the stands away from everybody else. I’m one of those that I get there early. Everything I’m doing is more evaluation-based than anything else.”

A longtime scout for the Rangers before becoming general manager of the Nationals and Mets, Minaya recently took a job as Major League Baseball’s amateur scouting consultant. In that role, he is working on initiatives such as the MLB Draft Combine, which gives domestic players a chance to showcase themselves in front of teams before the actual Draft. Should MLB implement an international Draft in the coming years, Minaya will be among those working to shape it.

For now, though, Minaya is enjoying his time watching Justin play in various cities across the country. He’ll continue to savor the run for however long it lasts. Because Justin Minaya not only had a redshirt season but also gained a year of eligibility due to COVID-19 rules, he can return to Providence next year if he desires. He is also considering turning pro after a season that saw him average 6.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game for the Friars. Thanks in part to Minaya’s efforts, Providence earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament despite ranking seventh in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll.

Omar Minaya, who once played professional baseball in Italy, quipped that he’ll happily show his son around Europe if he chooses to play there -- a decision will come in time, after the excitement of the tournament ends.

“It’s fun to be part of this, especially when you’re getting to watch your kid play," Minaya said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”