Saiz grow­ing as Cap­i­tal’s point guard

Late strug­gles against Roswell con­trib­ute to loss

Santa Fe New Mexican - - SPORTS - By James Bar­ron jbar­[email protected]­i­can.com

The Cap­i­tal Jaguars don’t talk about the past, if only to help their fu­ture. Cap­i­tal head boys bas­ket­ball coach Ben Gomez won’t ut­ter Tyler Alarid’s name to Bran­don Saiz, just as he didn’t men­tion the ghost of Eric Coca to Alarid. As great as past Cap­i­tal point guards have been, Gomez lets past play­ers slip into the his­tory books. It’s Gomez’s way of giv­ing the next guard his chance to make his mark on his terms.

“As much as we love Tyler, we never bring his name up,” said Gomez of his for­mer point guard who grad­u­ated in May after four no­table sea­sons. “Once they grad­u­ate, they grad­u­ated, and we don’t look back at the past. We move on to the present.”

The present — and the fu­ture — be­longs to Saiz, the 5-foot-8 ju­nior who now runs the point for the Jaguars. While he doesn’t have the coach­ing staff plac­ing the weight of past ex­pec­ta­tions from prior play­ers on his shoul­ders, Saiz un­der­stands that he still has big shoes to fill — even if he stands about 2 inches taller than Alarid. At least he had a good teacher. “Tyler taught me a lot, about be­ing smart and stuff,” Saiz said.

Saiz is smart enough to know he doesn’t need to score, not with vet­er­ans T.J. Sanchez and Seth Ar­royos around. He is av­er­age 6.2 points per game, and he was pretty much at that num­ber Fri­day af­ter­noon in a semi­fi­nal of the Bobby Ro­driguez Cap­i­tal City Tour­na­ment in Santa Fe High’s Toby Roy­bal Memo­rial Gym­na­sium. He had six points, but he also had a cou­ple of key turnovers late in the game that helped Roswell rally from a 46-36 deficit and win 68-66.

Cap­i­tal (4-2) will play Va­len­cia (3-2) in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. Satur­day.

Matched against Coy­otes’ 5-11 ju­nior Ja­sia Reese, Saiz wilted at times against Reese’s pres­sure in in the third and fourth quar­ters. One of those came with less than a minute in the third as Reese took the ball away at mid­court and drove to the bas­ket. Reese missed, but Roswell’s 6-4 post Miguel Baray re­bounded and was fouled on the put­back.

The en­su­ing free throw brought the Coy­otes within 47-44 with 29.7 sec­onds left in the quar­ter. When Cap­i­tal upped the lead to 56-49 on Saiz’s floater with

5:28, Roswell re­sponded with a 9-2 run that in­cluded an­other Reese steal off Saiz. That led to a Nate Du­chover tran­si­tion layup for a 56-53 Cap­i­tal lead with 3:57 to go.

The Coy­otes took a 62-61 lead on Do­minic Nava’s 15-footer at 1:59, and he added a driv­ing layup 36 sec­onds later for a 64-61 lead that held up.

Both player and coach called it a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Saiz, who saw spot time in a backup role to Alarid as well as play­ing other po­si­tions last year.

“When we were 10 [points], we thought we had them,” Saiz said. “We started tak­ing them lightly, which we shouldn’t do.”

“He made passes and tried to make moves that just weren’t con­ducive to our suc­cess,” Gomez said. “And that led to turnovers and gave them ex­tra pos­ses­sions.”

Saiz’s strug­gles mimic play­ers try­ing to make the tran­si­tion from be­ing a role player with lim­ited play­ing time to learn­ing how to play com­pet­i­tively at the var­sity level. The game moves at a dif­fer­ent pace, and with a phys­i­cal­ity that Saiz is not fa­mil­iar with. But he’s learn­ing, thanks to op­po­nents like Roswell and Santa Fe High, which beat the Jaguars 69-62 in the Al Ar­men­dariz Tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship on Dec. 1.

“It is dif­fer­ent, but I am start­ing to get used to it,” Saiz said.

Gomez said Saiz was an ideal point guard be­cause of his quick­ness and his bas­ket­ball IQ. Even more im­por­tant was his abil­ity to take coach­ing and con­struc­tive crit­i­cism.

“Once you have those in­tan­gi­bles, if you’re will­ing to work and spend time with learn­ing the game, he’ll get through those grow­ing pains,” Gomez said. “As op­posed to, say, if he’s not pick­ing things up as quickly you like, you should look at some­one else. Nah, we gotta stay the course, and he has to un­der­stand that he is go­ing to be our point guard. He has to de­velop to be suc­cess­ful, and I think he’s do­ing that.”

After all, Saiz is the present.

LUIS SÁNCHEZ SATURNO/THE NEW MEX­I­CAN

Cap­i­tal’s Bran­don Saiz, left, is guarded by Roswell’s Nate Dutchover on Fri­day in the Bobby Ro­driguez Cap­i­tal City Tour­na­ment. Saiz has taken over as the Jaguars point guard and has had some suc­cess as he has got­ten more ex­pe­ri­ence at the po­si­tion.

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