Span­ish baller fits in at Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate

Span­ish ex­change stu­dent fits right in on Lady Sen­tinels bas­ket­ball team

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Mari Pez Gar­cia Gomez has thor­oughly en­joyed her time as a mem­ber the Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate Sen­tinels fe­male bas­ket­ball team. The ex­change stu­dent from Spain loves be­ing a part of the team and trav­el­ling to tour­na­ments, and her bas­ket­ball skills cer­tainly have not gone un­no­ticed.

When Mari Pez Gar­cia Gomez steps onto the court with the Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate Sen­tinels fe­male bas­ket­ball team, she’s not nec­es­sar­ily think­ing in her head about want­ing the ball.

More likely, the 16-year-old en­vi­sions a team­mate pass­ing her ‘el balón.’ That’s be­cause Gomez’s first lan­guage is Span­ish, not English.

Thanks to a schol­ar­ship, Gomez left her home coun­try of Spain last fall to travel to Car­bon­ear, where she’s study­ing for the full school year as an ex­change stu­dent.

“I could come to any­where (in Canada), but I came here,” said Gomez, who stud­ied English from a young age and takes some cour­ses back home strictly in English.

Com­ing from a small vil­lage in the north­ern prov­ince of La Ri­oja (an area known for its wine vine­yards), Gomez has a fa­mil­iar­ity with ru­ral towns. The near­est city to her, Logroño, has ap­prox­i­mately the same pop­u­la­tion as St. John’s.

But she’s never had a win­ter like the one she’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in New­found­land.

“The thing that we don’t have at school (in Spain) is snow days — it’s strange for us. That’s nice,” Gomez said with a laugh.

If you could point to one thing that’s made her stay in Car­bon­ear par­tic­u­larly en­joy­able, it’s be­ing a part of the bas­ket­ball team. It’s a pop­u­lar sport in her home coun­try, sec­ond only to soc­cer. Spain’s male and fe­male na­tional teams are both ranked sec­ond in­ter­na­tion­ally to the United States.

“I needed to play bas­ket­ball or to do some sports,” she said. “I knew that if you came here, the food is more (fatty), so I was go­ing to get fat­ter, so I needed to (stay fit).”

She also had con­cerns about feel­ing lonely com­ing to a new place, but she fits right in with the team.

“I met a lot of peo­ple. If not, I was go­ing to be alone. I met peo­ple, I could go away from Car­bon­ear, I could travel and spend time in the Gan­der tour­na­ment.”

Con­sid­er­able tal­ents

Gomez, a 5’8” for­ward, con­trib­utes plenty on the court. In 22 games this sea­son, the Grade 11 stu­dent av­er­aged 10 points per game. She’s also adept at haul­ing down re­bounds.

“She shows up to prac­tices reg­u­larly, works her heart out and she’s learned prob­a­bly more English from bas­ket­ball than her school ex­pe­ri­ence,” coach Pamela Whe­lan told The Com­pass, adding she’s sports­man­like and also a great stu­dent in gen­eral.

“I can re­mem­ber the first game we played. She knew the signs, but when we were say­ing stuff, she didn’t re­ally know. She re­ally worked hard at lis­ten­ing, but of course, New­found­lan­ders have a very speedy way (of talk­ing). Some­times she says, ‘ Par­don me?’”

Na­jaula Sparkes and Chelsea Par­sons, Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate stu­dents who as­sist Whalen with coach­ing du­ties, have a lot of nice things to say about Gomez.

“As soon as I saw her, first time walk­ing in, I knew she was go­ing to be a ball player,” Par­sons told The Com­pass.

“She’s re­ally good on the post, and she’s a good three­p­oint shooter,” added Sparkes. “She never shot a three-point shot un­til she came here, and now she’s get­ting al­most one every sin­gle game.”

Gomez has man­aged well com­mu­ni­cat­ing with her team­mates in games, though

The thing that we don’t have at school (in Spain) is snow days — it’s strange for us. That’s nice.

— Mari Pez Gar­cia Gomez

she ac­knowl­edges it has been chal­leng­ing keep­ing up with the pace at which some New­found­lan­ders speak.

“My host fam­ily has a re­ally thick ac­cent, so it was re­ally dif­fi­cult at the begin­ning,” Gomez said.

Asked what ad­vice she’d share with some­one com­ing to New­found­land as an ex­change stu­dent, Gomez re­it­er­ates the value of be­ing part of a team. “It’s re­ally great,” she said. As the school year winds down, Gomez and her team­mates still have plenty of bas­ket­ball left to play. The re­gional school sports tour­na­ment starts March 4 at Laval High School in Pla­cen­tia. New­found­land and Labrador Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion provin­cials are also on the hori­zon in April.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

Mem­bers of the Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate Sen­tinels fe­male bas­ket­ball team hold up their beloved Span­ish team­mate Mari Pez Gar­cia Gomez for a photo.

PHOTO COUR­TESY PAMELA WHE­LAN

Mari Pez Gar­cia Gomez, far right, has proven to be an im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor to her team’s suc­cess, av­er­ag­ing 10 points per game.

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