Imagine, spending part of your summer vacation representing the United States in Europe.
That is exactly what Valencia High School basketball standout Damian Estrada did, participating in the United World Games in Austria.
“It was, honestly, an amazing experience — breathtaking,” said Estrada, a senior-to-be at VHS.
Estrada was chosen for a United States U-19 squad with players from Texas, Florida and Kansas, competing against teams from around the world.
“The basketball was different out there,” Estrada said. “The style of play — the rules as well.”
According to USA Student Athlete World, student-athletes are selected from a national pool based on athletics, leadership ability and character.
With an eye on the future, Estrada hopes his efforts might grab the attention of college coaches, “to get my name out there, to get some exposure.”
One of the highlights for Estrada was a team side-trip to Italy.
“We went to Venice, on a boat with my teammates,” floating the canals and enjoying the buildings and art work.
Estrada’s team played five games and advanced to the semifinals where they were eliminated.
“We had a bunch of Austrian kids cheering us on. After the games, they would want our autographs, take pictures with us, too.”
That interaction was memorable.
“I think the best part of it was meeting all the kids and showing them a different view. They were always asking questions, like, ‘How is it over there’ and if one day they could be like us and how did we do it?”
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.