HELENA – If you take a look at the Carroll College men’s basketball roster you’ll see a lot of different hometowns far from Montana’s boarders.
Washington and California are prominent states for these Saint’s, but there is a hometown that stands out as a little farther than the west coast. Madrid, Spain. Home of forward Alejandro Santos Piqueras. But around here he goes by Alex.
“It’s kind of been a family tradition,” said Santos. “My father played basketball. My older brother plays basketball. We are all tall in my family. So I started playing very early and it’s always been my dream. When everyone asked me when I was little what I wanted to do I just wanted to play professional basketball and I’ve kid of followed my dreams since I was little.”
In Europe, basketball works a little differently. There are no College teams like we have here. So when Alex wanted to get an education while playing basketball he set his sights elsewhere. Eventually finding his way to Helena and Carson Cunningham’s Saints. Which was no simple application process.
“So you get, I don’t know, 15-hundred to two-thousand players you get emails on, or more from all over the cournty and the world,” Carroll head coach Carson Cunningham said.Y”ou got to try and find who would be a good fit for Carroll. Who fits the needs of Carroll. You got to find out if that player values what Carroll has to offer. And if our vision for them, as far as academics, athletics, fit their goals. With Alex Santos it all fit. He’s just a special talent. I mean a 6’8″ point guards are just uncommon. He’s just another guy we feel fortunate to have.”
After passing an entrance exam the Business major was on his way to the United States and a whole new world than he was use to.
“When I was flying over to get here I was kind of shocked to see how deep the mountains Helena was,” Santos told us. “First impressions were great. It was in the summer, big blue sky, good weather, awesome people. First it was good weather and then the winter is when the real shock came.”
The weather wasn’t the only thing that was a little different than expected.
“I knew some english, but I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was going to be,” continued Alex. “The language was pretty hard at first. It took me about a couple months, or three months to express myself and talk to people about what I wanted to do or my feelings. It’s hard being able to speak in a language but not being able to communicate with other people because of the language barrier.”
Now that barrier is broken for Alex, and his background has become an asset to this team
“It’s been neat to get his take on how he feels and sees the game,” said Cunningham. “I mean there is definitely a European style, so it’s nice to have that element. The guys love him. It’s neat for everybody. He gets to see America. The guys get to learn about Spain and befriend a Sanish hooper who they otherwise may never have meet in life. So it’s been great. And you know the key is he’s been willing to work in school. So he’s gotten the job done. He’s been able to manage emotionally, being away from home. Which is not easy. And then
“The playing style is very different between Europe and here,” said Santos. “So you just can grow from everything from different perspectives, different people, different personalities. That’s been very helpful for me and I think for the team too.”
As the team is off to their best start in 100 years, I think he might be on to something.