Saiz growing as Capital’s point guard
Late struggles against Roswell contribute to loss
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.
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.