A four time All-Star in high school. A captain for all four seasons. An average of 19 points per game and 6 assists.
These are just a number of the accomplishments of newly named Saint Joseph’s walk-on, Christian Vega. Even though the sophomore will only suit up for home games, he has been a common commodity at practices for the past two seasons.
Vega, who grew up in Puerto Rico, was on the practice squad last year, but earned himself a spot this go around. His fiery and energetic play has helped push the other Saint Joseph’s guards in practice.
“On the court and in practices I will work hard,” he told the Empire. “I like to play very intelligent basketball...I compete and try to make the team better.”
Born in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, basketball was also an important part of his life. Since the age of six, he has played and has been quite successful. But his first sport wasn’t basketball: it was baseball, just like everyone else in Puerto Rico. Sports, however, have always been in his blood.
“One of my sisters is living in California, she is finishing high school and she is trying out for the US national team for synchronized swimming,” he added. “My dad [also] participated in two Pan American Games [playing] water polo for Puerto Rico.”
Christian has taken a different route. Instead of in the pool, he likes to be above water, on the basketball court. After joining the basketball club at his baseball program, he was hooked and later dropped baseball. But this came slightly unexpected as no one in his family had played the game of basketball seriously.
However, it wasn’t long before he caught on and began to fall in love with the game of basketball, under the guidance of the Bucaplaa Basketball Club. In high school, he noticed his real potential.
“I would say when I was in ninth grade when my high school coach put me on some of the varsity games because he needed a point guard...I decided if I keep working hard I can get to NCAA or go to college.”
Not only was Christian working hard in basketball (often he would have two basketball practices a night), but he was also in school. Ranked as one of the best academic schools in all of Puerto Rico, Colegio San Jose' challenged Christian, but he never broke down.
“I have always had good grades. My high school GPA was 3.71.”
And oddly enough, he credits the extensive amount of basketball to aiding in his high grade point average.
“To be honest, when I had a lot of practices and stuff being involved with basketball, I would say I did better in school. When I had free time and nothing to do with basketball, I was laid back and didn’t put [the work in initially]...But when I had practice I would be like, ‘I have to study now’.”
In high school, not only did Christian thrive in basketball and in the classroom, but he was a varsity volleyball player, which was something he didn’t pick up until closer to his high school days.
“I was pretty good [at volleyball],” reminisced Christian. “I was not the best one on the team, but I played every game. We ranked like fourth in the country of Puerto Rico.”
In addition to his success in high schools athletics, the 6-foot-0 guard starred on one of the best basketball clubs in Puerto Rico. The Bucaplaa Basketball Club was “the number one team” in the country, according to Christian. Despite his individual success with high school and strong play with one of the most successful clubs in the country, he garnered no scholarship offers from American colleges. He credits this to the lack of exposure to college coaches in Puerto Rico.
Christian soon traveled to the US, still in hopes of joining a college basketball program. He enrolled at Saint Joseph’s University as a student and the reasons why he decided to attend the school weren’t exactly related to basketball.
“I like small schools like this, where I can be known by everyone,” says Christian. “I’m not a number, I’m a person. I loved this program since a kid. I’ve been following it, it's a big program. [Also] it’s close to the city, but at the same time it's not in the city.”
Although he was apart of the practice squad his freshman year, he wasn’t able to suit up for games.
But now he is fulfilling his dream and playing college basketball. It’s been a long, but successful road. Christian hopes he can continue to improve and possibly earn some minutes. The lefty says in order to warrant a spot in the rotation, he needs to get stronger and better defensively. After Saint Joseph’s, he hopes to continue playing basketball.
“If I can go pro back in my country. That would be great.”
Regardless, Christian has already exceeded expectations. He has earned himself a spot on a nationally recognized basketball program. He has lived in two different cultures. He has been a crazy successful high school athlete. Furthermore, on top of all of that, he has maintained a strong academic base.
And who knows? Christian Vega just may continue to surprise us.
-Saint Joseph's ends season with loss in first round of A-10 tournament against UMass