Spanish transfer student has easy transition to SHS through basketball program

September 23, 2018 — by Justin Guo and Kaylene Morrison

Standing at 6'4", senior Pau Garcia de la Cuadra towers above the sea of students as he makes his way to the quad. Garcia, who transfered from Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Valencia, Spain, just two weeks prior to the start of school, is still adjusting to the culture and layout of the city and American school in general.

With the help of his sister Sofia, who graduated SHS last year under the same exchange program, Garcia successfully applied to attend the school for the year through International Student Exchange (ISE).

Garcia is currently enrolled in the J-1 visa, which allows Garcia to live in the U.S. for up to a year for academic purposes. He is staying with junior Marly Feign’s family and will be hosted by senior Hanlin Sun next semester.
News of his arrival was first spread throughout the varsity basketball team. Garcia has been playing basketball since freshman year, and his height has allowed him to excel at the sport.

Garcia began training with the varsity basketball team soon after coming to the U.S. Prior to Garcia’s arrival, the team was relatively undersized, having lost all three of its tallest players from last season to graduation. Sun, a fellow varsity player, said that he is confident in Garcia’s abilities to be an asset to the team.

“Pau will definitely help us this year. He’s around 6’4 and is really long, so he’ll help us inside on defense and rebounding,” Sun said. “He’s pretty skilled right now, but the biggest thing for him is to adjust to the physicality and speed that we play at.”

Garcia said that he enjoys the intense environment and the level of physical play of varsity basketball, despite the difficulty of getting used to it.

“It feels like it’s the WWE sometimes,” Garcia joked.

During practices, the coaches tend to not call fouls in an attempt to get the team used to the level of physical play at the varsity level.

Varsity head coach Patrick Judge said that this is because one of the weakness of the team is the team’s size and toughness in the key.

“Using a coaching strategy from my past, we have stopped calling hardly any fouls, especially in the paint,” Judge said. “Over time it is my hope that all of our athletes, especially our big guys like Pau, no longer expect fouls to be called and play through any contact they might experience.”

Garcia said that in Spain, fouls were rarely called as well, but here he notes that the the defensive help is a little more intense.

When Garcia gets the ball in the paint, he has traditionally been trained to make moves to score. However, since the help defense in this league is so quick and well practiced, Garcia can barely dribble the ball before players from the other team start surrounding him.

Because of this, Garcia has begun learning to look for his open teammates more often when he gets the ball in the paint. And since the team excels at shooting in general, developing this habit is important regardless.

In addition, Garcia is still getting used to his new teammates and their styles. Given time, Garcia said he will be more comfortable with them and play more confidently in the future.

Garcia said that the basketball team, and the numerous team-bonding activities they do, has really helped his transition to the school. For example, the basketball team often goes out to get food after workouts.

“In Spain, we would always have a team dinner after the season ended, but it didn’t really matter, because the season was already over,” Garcia said. “Here, we go out to eat almost every weekend, and I am able to become much better friends with my teammates because of it.”

Garcia has had his first experiences of eating Five Guys, In N Out and Chipotle with the basketball squad, and to him, being able to enjoy his time playing basketball and bond with his teammates has been the best part of coming to the US.

The team even went to K1 Speed Racing for a night as a reward from the coach for working really hard throughout the summer and into the start of the school year. Garcia described it as one of the best experiences of his life.

“Our coach got us the entire arena for a night, and it was amazing,” Garcia said. “We had a [friendly] competition, and I only got third, but it was still really fun to hang out with teammates and go racing.”

Garcia said that this camaraderie within the team fosters leadership and trust for the players. In Spain, everyone plays their own style of basketball, he said, but here, all teammates are on the same page with one goal — winning a league championship.

“Here, everyone on the team really likes each other and has fun on the court,” Garcia said. “The leadership from Hanlin [Sun] and Sehij [Dhindsa] is much better than back in Spain.”

Despite having missed the summer trainings, Garcia said that that the opportunity to play basketball was one of the main reasons he came to the U.S., so the time commitment isn’t really a big deal for him.

Garcia hopes that he can reach a skill level that would allow him to get into college on a basketball scholarship and stay in the US. However, if applying to colleges proves to be too difficult for him, he is content with moving back to Spain.  

“It’s very difficult to go to college in the U.S. for me,” he said, “I am trying to apply with only basketball and that’s all I have, so it looks like I am going to go back to Spain and try to go to the UK, Germany, France. That’s not what I want though. I want to stay here. “

Aside from basketball, Garcia’s biggest challenge has not been the language barrier, as most would assume; being able to speak with some of the Spanish teachers as well as friends who speak Spanish has made the transition easier, too. Instead, Garcia’s biggest obstacle has been getting used to suburban Saratoga.

Garcia’s home in Valencia is a dense metropolis, a bustling city similar to New York. Saratoga, however, is mostly residential, and since non-residential areas are few and far apart, travel by car is the main transportation method.

“Here everyone uses a car, while in my city you can see a lot of people walking because it’s a city where you can walk,” Garcia said. “But here all the people say 30 minutes is very close, but for me very close means five minutes.”

As Garcia continues to get more accustomed to life in the U.S., he has begun to enjoy it.

Assimilating into the community has been a bit difficult for Garcia, but he feels that being part of the basketball team has helped him adapt to the environment and enjoy life in Saratoga.

In the hallways, for example, his teammates often exchange greetings with Garcia, and he can’t wait until the season gets started in November.

“I’ve only been here for a month, but being part of the basketball team has been awesome, and I really hope we can do well when the season starts,” he said.

 

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