It wasn’t exactly like placing a finger on a spinning globe to decide where to visit, but it was fate that sent two young men who live a world away to Belen.
Lars Bachner, of Ulm, Germany, and Lucas Coscelli of Sao Paulo, Brazil, are now linked together as exchange students at Belen High School and members of the Eagles basketball team.
What did Bachner think when he learned he was coming to New Mexico?
“Obviously, ‘Breaking Bad,’” Bachner said, referencing the popular television show. “It’s like the biggest thing — the first thing I noticed.”
At 6-foot, 4-four inches tall, Bachner was noticed in the BHS hallway by coach Donald Marquez, who suggested he try out for basketball.
“Why not,” Bachner said, after all, he gave football a shot. “It’s amazing, especially the players and the overnight trips in basketball because you are hanging out with your friends.”
Those experiences have been educational.
“You learn a lot about your school, life here in America, people, their hobbies,” he said.
Coscelli is also part of the basketball team, but as a manager. He too tried out for the squad, “but I’m not really athletic. Let’s just leave it at that,” Coscelli said.
Being a manager has worked well.
“I really like the sideline stuff in sports,” he said. “I like what coaches do. I really get into that.”
Coscelli is thrilled to be with an organized team, something he says is not available at schools in Brazil.
“We spend most of the time studying, really,” he said.
Both Coscelli and Bachner, who live with the same host family, have jumped into the American lifestyle, but it has been different.
Bachner’s friends in Germany were shocked at the length of the school day.
“Here, I stay in school pretty much the whole day, from 7 in the morning until 5 in the evening (including sports),” he said. “They freaked out. I explained that the school is basically your life.”
The dress code was an adjustment, too.
“I see people wearing pajamas to school or whatever,” he said. “It’s just not quite normal in Germany to wear your pajamas to school.”
Bachner says Belen is amazing.
“Most of the people I talk to say, ‘Hey there’s not much to do in Belen, but I would disagree.”
“I’m liking the people, the culture here, the school,” Coscelli added.
He summed up his experience by saying the most American thing.
“It’s been a blast.”
(Editor’s Note: This is a first in a series looking behind the scenes at high school basketball programs in Valencia County.)
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.