For Saiz, engineering can wait
By: ALEJANDRO PÉREZ
CORRIENTES (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas 2018) — There are family matters one must tend to without hesitation. There are some that there is no other option but to survive them, and others, on the contrary, that are assumed with joy and conviction. And in this last category does power forward of Regatas Corrientes Javier Saiz begin his story.
The son of two professionals (his father, an electronics engineer and his mother, an odonatologist), it seemed as though it was impossible for Javier to elude the tradition of going to college. And at 18 years of age, what pushed him to begin his studies was that “I’m fascinated by electronics and I like to study. I started to study Electronic Engineering because I enjoyed it and I felt enthusiastic about it, it's fun.”
But of course, at that moment, Saiz played for Hindú, in his native city of Córdoba, a team that participated in Torneo Federal, Argentina’s third division. Although the sport’s demands were lesser than the academic, for the young 6’8” player, it meant an important physical and mental effort.
“I went to school in the mornings and in the afternoon. Then, I left for training. It's demanding. Sometimes I would fall asleep in class... but I never felt it as a burden. Since I came from a vocational school, I was used to studying. But I also liked to do it,” said the Córdoba native, who kept up this dynamic for two years, during which he approved more than 10 classes.
Amid this stage, in 2013, the opportunity came to play with the U-19 Argentine National Team in the World Cup in the Czech Republic. There he was, between training and traveling to Europe, one month without going to college. When he went to a professor to ask for a break, he answered: “I cannot give you a special leave. In your place, I would stick to basketball.” A stubborn Saiz made an effort and passed the professor's class, despite his discouraging piece of advice.
It was in 2014 when the situation started to change. The forward was signed by Regatas Corrientes to participate at Liga Nacional. “At that time I had to leave my studies. My parents accepted it, because they understood that these are opportunities that come around once. They told me to try basketball out to see how I would do. That if I wanted to study, I could regain my college studies later on,” said Saiz, who clearly knows that an athlete's career is short and should be enjoyed to the fullest extent.
Even in the distance, and despite his double trainings, he continued with his engineering career and did three more classes to complete, to this day, 15 of the 35 courses required for the title.
However, things started to get more complicated, because another welcome “problem” was added to Saiz’s sporting commitments at the National League. As he continued to evolve as a player, he started to be summoned in 2015 by the Senior National Team.
The player remembers that “at first I could do well in some classes, such as those that didn't require my attendance, such as English (Language Arts) or Economics. But then it became impossible, because there are subjects where you have to presence the professor’s class. There are technical subjects that are impossible to do at a distance. Even so, I studied for some at home, but when the exam date came around I would be traveling with the League, or concentrated with the National Team, and I couldn't do the final test. That’s why it's been two years since I can't do any courses.”
Saiz acknowledges that it is not common in professional sports for a player to continue a college career at the same time. “They think it's weird, because it's not normal at high-level sports. Nonetheless, I’ve always felt that my teammates value it and that served as encouragement for me,” he admits.
When he had already decided to take the path of basketball, the Regatas player had his first reward: a promising performance at the 2017 AmeriCup with the Argentine National Team. “I went to the team knowing that I would have a very limited role, but Scola’s injury gave me more prominence than I expected. That fueled my desire of continuing to excel,” he remembers.
Saiz is known for his intelligence of moving to where he is needed and using shots near the board to his advantage. Do his studies have something to do with that?
The player has no doubts: “I'm convinced it helps. Studying opens your mind, not only in sport, but in life; to see the world. I don't know how much it influences, but I think it favors me. I'm a rational and quite structured person, something that is typical in people that study Engineering. It's not a common thing to see a bohemian Engineer...,” he jokingly says.
From mathematical analysis at college, Saiz went on to the strategic analysis in basketball. “Watching games with me is not very fun. I'm much more interest in the game tactics than in the game itself,” he warns.
With 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in Liga de las Américas and a promising future in the Argentine National League, Saiz still takes some time off to work with electronics. He shares: “My dad builds electronic scoreboards. I develop the program of the control consoles. Professional athletes have free hours in the day and I use them in something that I like a lot, like electronics, and I help my dad out. We work together.”
Despite his wishes of continuing his studies, Saiz is not sure of whether he will go back to college when he ends his athletic career. What he does assure is that “I had to choose between two things that I liked a lot: electronics and basketball. For now, I'm satisfied with the decision I made.”