Gold Rush Feature: Gold-medal express

Oct. 6, 2010

This article was originally published in the Sept. 25 edition of Gold Rush.

By Jay Reddick

When the Wake Forest women's basketball team begins practice this fall, they'll have three or four weeks before their first competitive game.

That amount of preparation will be a luxury for Sandra Garcia, who played for the Puerto Rican national team this summer after five days of workouts.

Garcia, a rising sophomore, took the court for Puerto Rico at the Centrobasket Championship for Women in July, and her squad won its first gold medal, qualifying the nation for the 2011 Pan-Am Games and the 2011 FIBA-Americas Championship.

The remainder of the Puerto Rican team spent most of June together working out and getting to know one another, but Garcia did not join them until she finished classes at the first session of summer school in early July.

"I didn't know any of them before, so I basically spent that time getting adjusted to how they play -- the plays in the post, and what the guards like to do," Garcia said. "The guards were very good, so that part of it was kind of easy."

In five tournament games (all victories), the 6-foot-3 Garcia was generally the first post player off the bench. She made the most of it, averaging 8 points and 3.4 rebounds in about 13 minutes per game.

Garcia has had national team experience before -- but for a different nation. She was born in Florida, and her parents and grandparents have roots in both Puerto Rico and Colombia. She is still eligible to play for either team, but in FIBA-sponsored events, she's now committed to Puerto Rico.

National-team organizers have been after her to play for a while, Garcia said, but this was the first time that schedules and logistics worked out.

"They had two team tryouts before they reached me (in the spring), but they decided to let me come in anyway, since they were about to cut down to the main roster, and see what I could do."

Garcia said she didn't expect to be a starter because of her relatively limited international experience, so she just wanted to bring something different to the team.

"Most of the post players stayed inside and just liked to shoot," Garcia said. "I was a little more inside/outside, to bring the team a little variety.

"After games, I had fans tell me they could see the difference in energy when I was in there. I really appreciated that."

She said the team's schemes were a good challenge for her -- the team liked to run, but also had a large array of offensive sets in the halfcourt. She was always cognizant of what WFU coaches had asked her to work on, especially defense and shooting range.

"I'm bringing back more defensive pressure," Garcia said. "That's one big thing I needed to work on. I'm hoping my game has a little more variety -- counter moves in the post, perimeter pump-fakes -- that's what I'm planning to bring back (to the Deacons). I can shoot, but all I'm missing there is that range to get the ball, take one dribble and shoot it. I'm really excited about getting back to it."

Spring Game