By Matthew Gourlie
Moose Jaw Times-Herald
There are many Canadian high school basketball stars who dream of going to the United States to play in college.
This is the story of one hoops star who went the other way.
Christian Sacoman is a first-team all-state basketball player from New Mexico. His last high school game was the state semifinal played in The Pit—the famed 14,586-seat arena that hosted the 1983 NCAA title game.
In the fall, Sacoman will head north and join the Briercrest College and Seminary Clippers.
How Sacoman came to end up at Briercrest is a little complicated. The why is easy:
"The coach [Gene Wolverton] and the school and how much they support you. They're going to help you become a better person," said Sacoman from his home in Albuquerque, N.M.
"The people around there are really nice people."
The relationship that Wolverton and Sacoman forged helped make up the 17-year-old's mind that Briercrest College and Seminary was the best fit for his future on the basketball floor and off.
"As I go on in my coaching career what you really realize as you build relationships with kids is that, in the end, when they feel that you're going to take care of them, that you're going to look after them, teach them and help them grow—that's when they decide," Wolverton said.
"He wants to grow on the court, but also in his character. He wants to develop and be a man built for others. That's was really a huge part of what drew him to Briercrest was that aspect of our program."
Sacoman is a six-foot-two shooting guard. He began playing basketball when he was three years old in a program at his local YMCA. In fact, his first word was "ball."
"He is one of the top-five players in the state," said Wolverton. "He was captain of his team this year. He holds a bunch of career school records."
Sacoman averaged 17 points per game. He shot 41 per cent from the three-point line, 48 per cent from the field and was an 81 per cent free throw shooter for Eldorado High School.
"I think Christian will definitely have an immediate impact," Wolverton, who watched a stack of DVDs Sacoman sent and purchased some of his games on-line to get more looks at him, said. "He's a pure shooter. He's really athletic. He has a high basketball IQ.
"The thing I like the most about him is his attitude. He's a hard worker. He wants to come and grow—not only on the court, but in his character."
That desire to continue to get better saw him attend a basketball camp called the Point Guard College. That decision began a chain of events that would lead to him north for college.
Sacoman and his family were contacting schools when Wolverton emailed Sacoman after seeing him on a recruiting web site. After that the two had a brief phone call.
"I called him not expecting anything and we didn't even talk for that long," Sacoman recalled.
However, shortly after that call, Sacoman attended the Point Guard College camp. Tyler Coston, one of the directors of the Point Guard College, coached at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. at the same time Wolverton was an assistant coach at TWU.
"I asked [Coston] about Briercrest. He ended up calling coach [Wolverton] the next day and that's how we started talking," Sacoman said.
Wolverton said he has great respect for Coston's opinion and Coston liked what he saw of Sacoman in Albuquerque.
"Tyler worked Christian out. It was just kind of timing thing," Wolverton said. "He said 'there's a kid down here who says he's interested in Briercrest. If that's true, you should get after him.' From that point on we kept in contact with Christian and in the end he decided we were the program for him."
Sacoman came to visit Briercrest College and Seminary during his spring break in March and even the blustery early spring weather couldn't deter him.
"Down here it's warm weather most of the year, so it was a really big shock. That's my biggest fear—the weather," Sacoman said.
Sacoman admitted that when he started the process of deciding where to go to school, leaving the country had never even crossed his mind.
"I had four other offers in the States, but coach Wolverton—he really got me. We had a really good relationship from the start," Sacoman said.
This story appeared originally in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald on Saturday, May 1, 2010, page B1.