Learning a new game in a new country

Wildkittens’ exchange students in their first season of basketball

By Jim Naveau - jnaveau@limanews.com

Everything was new. Everything

Bath High School exchange students Luca Buchwald and Alicia Dupuy Sanz speak a combined five languages — German and English for Buchwald and Spanish, French and English for Dupuy Sanz. But they didn’t speak a word of basketball when they showed up for the first day of practice at Bath last fall.

“They were all really nice but it was like they were speaking a different language because of all the different words for basketball stuff like “block” and “paint.” I’d never heard that before. It took a while to understand,” Buchwald said.

So, how do two athletes who’d never played basketball before end up in a girls basketball program as successful as Bath’s?

First of all, they’re athletes. Dupuy Sanz’s best sport growing up in Spain’s capital of Madrid was track. As a high jumper, she has cleared 5 feet, 3 inches. Buchwald, from Frankfurt, Germany, was a gymnast.

Second, exchange students typically become involved in many activities. And, finally, even though Bath has won 20 games so far this season, it faced the problem of shrinking rosters which have led to some schools cutting JV games to two quarters or eliminating them.

Both players got most of their game time on the Wildkittens’ JV team but Dupuy Sanz has appeared in two varsity games and Buchwald scored three points in a varsity game.

“Both of them have integrated into our team. They’re great kids,” Bath coach Greg Mauk said. “Throughout the course of the season what has amazed me is where they have come from that first week when they were as green as you can get.

“By the end of the year they were very adequate JV players. And more than that, they were great teammates. It’s not all about playing time, it’s not all about other things. We’ve enjoyed having them around,” he said.

Junior guard Abbie Dackin said, “I was a little skeptical because I knew they hadn’t played before and they could barely dribble the ball. But as practice went on and the season went on they improved so much and were a good addition to our team. They’re very brave for doing that.”

Before the bravery, though, there was some uncertainty.

“At the beginning I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do basketball because track is what I have always done,” Dupuy Sanz said. “I met Coach Mauk at a volleyball game and he was talking about the team and how the group is and friendship and how they’re a team and not selfish. He was like, ‘You should try it because you’re going to have fun and enjoy it.’ He convinced me, so I did it.”

Buchwald said, “The (exchange student) organizations always tell you to try everything even though maybe it’s new and a little bit scary. When you’re an exchange student that immediately comes with it so you want to try new stuff. That’s how I got to basketball. ”

Dupuy Sanz said she was suprised how important basketball became to her this season. “The friends I’ve made here, it was a really nice experience,” she said.

Wildkittens’ exchange students in their first season of basketball

By Jim Naveau


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