Big man from the Bronx looks abroad

Four years ago John Brown University wasn’t even on his radar. Now in his second year as a student at JBU, senior Andy Garcia has found his place on the court.

Growing up in Bronx, NY, Garcia found his love for basketball at a young age.

He was not allowed to go play at the park near his house by himself, so he would go with his 17-year-old cousin.

“I used to watch my cousin play basketball at the park daily,” Garcia said, “I started playing around with my cousin, and he helped me get better and better, and then I started realizing I loved it.”

As his passion for basketball grew and as his skills developed, Garcia began playing for his high school’s team, then started looking into playing for a college team.

“I was first recruited to play for a junior college in Oklahoma,” Garcia said. “I played there for my freshman and sophomore years, and then was recruited for JBU’s team.”

After the coaches saw DVDs of Garcia’s playing time and after many phone calls, Garcia sealed the deal with JBU and became a part of the team in 2010.

In the short amount of time that he has been at JBU, he has already made a big impact on his teammates.

Freshman Max Hopfgartner finds Garcia as a source of encouragement both on and off the court.

“He is definitely making a big impact on the basketball team right now,” Hopfgartner said. “Since Jared, Bryan and I, the other big men on the team, are freshmen and sophomores, we don’t have a whole lot of experience. He is helping us a lot because he is much more experienced.”

Hopfgartner also noted that Garcia is a great rebounder, and “a big part of the reason we are one of the best rebounding teams in the country this season.”

For Garcia, the love of basketball won’t stop after graduation. He hopes to continue on and play for a team overseas.

”I love the sport so much that I just want to keep playing it as long as possible,” said Garcia,”I don’t really care where I play.”

One of Garcia’s coaches has contacts with international agents and is helping Garcia reach his goal of playing overseas.

Hopfgartner, who is from Austria, said he thinks Garcia definitely has what it takes to rise to the top and play as a pro basketball player in Europe.

As for Garcia, he is just focusing on finishing the season strong and doing his best in every game.

“This season has been good,” Garcia said. “The first round of the conference tournament last year was rough, but this year has been good. We’ve been working really hard.”

The team is currently practicing three time a week along with practicing individually and playing two games every weekend.

Garcia said his favorite part of practice is getting to know his teammates.

He likes how the team works hard together and learning how the team plays as a unit.

Garcia brings his sense of humor to practices as well.

“I just like to joke around with the other guys on the team, while we are practicing and getting to know each other better,” said Garcia, “I’m always smiling and laughing. I guess that’s just my personality.”

Hopfgartner agreed.

“He is friends with everyone on the team and can be a jokester at times,” Hopfgartner said. “We are having a great season so far, and he’s a huge part of the team.”