Roman Martinez and Daniel Faris are back in their old stomping ground, but not for long.
Martinez and Faris, former UNM men’s basketball players, are back in Albuquerque for offseason training for their professional basketball careers.
Neither is in the NBA or the NBA Development League in the United States, but both have found roster spots overseas.
“It’s not bad,” Faris said. “But it is different, to say the least.”
Faris graduated from UNM and played center for the Lobos from 2005-09. He was a member of the 2009 UNM men’s Mountain West Conference regular-season championship squad.
Now the 6-foot-9-inch big man is on a team called Sagesse in the Lebanese city of Beirut.
He spent 2009-10 playing for a club in Holland, but he recently signed a multi-year deal with Sagesse to remain with the organization.
“Geographically, a lot of people don’t know where Lebanon is,” Faris said. “I didn’t know until I went there.”
And Faris also didn’t know about the situation the country faces.
Lebanon borders Israel. Currently, the area is war-torn, as the countries are in conflict.
Faris said it’s odd to see military personnel every day on his drive to practice or home games.
“There was always a tank a block down the street from our gym,” he said. “It’s always sitting right there on the sidewalk, which is kind of weird to see. But I haven’t seen any fighting or anything like that, and it doesn’t take much time to get used to.”
Martinez, on the other hand, spent the last year living in one of the most beautiful places in the world: the Canary Islands.
Martinez plays for the U.B. La Palma basketball team on the Canary Island of La Palma in the Atlantic Ocean northwest of the African coast.
He began playing for the team last summer, and he said he is ecstatic the team recently asked him to return for another year.
“I’ve worked hard every day in practice, and it led to my coach asking me to come back,” he said.
Martinez was a member of the Lobos’ back-to-back MWC championship teams from 2009-10. During his four years at UNM, he was admired by fans and teammates for his gritty play.
While he by no means was the most talented Lobo basketball player, Martinez was known for hitting clutch, long-range shots, playing smart and listening to his coaches.
He was also an academic All-American during his senior season.
Given all that, Martinez said he had trouble adapting to life after college.
“It was a little up and down season to start my professional career,” he said. “The culture is completely different. When you come back (home), you can’t explain in detail the experience, the difference between there and American culture.”
Not only did Faris and Martinez have to adjust to life in foreign countries, they also had to familiarize themselves with the flow and speed of pro ball.
Faris said he gave Martinez guidance on what it means to be a professional player.
“When you play overseas, it’s not only the basketball side of things,” Faris said. “Just the living and the conditions overseas, I don’t want to say bad; it’s just different than what we are used to here. But it takes time and adjustments any time you move anywhere.”
Martinez said he is slowly adapting to his lifestyle, but he hasn’t quite mastered Spanish, which is La Palma’s national language.
“My Spanish is so terrible,” he said. “But I’m learning, and that’s my plan this summer — to hit the books and learn the language on my own agenda.”