Allow me to introduce Sebastian Saiz, a name you will hear a lot about in the next couple of years at Ole Miss.
Sebastian helped the Rebels beat LSU in overtime Wednesday night with a 20-point, 9-rebound effort. A game that seemed to lean decidedly in LSU's favor prior to the breakout performance of the Spanish freshman Saiz.
This is the type of play Ole Miss fans all hoped they would see when he committed to head coach Andy Kennedy and the Rebels.
But how did Kennedy get a kid from Spain to Mississippi?
Saiz found his way to Oxford, MS through his recruitment and the relationship built by Ole Miss assistant coach Sergio Rouco, who keeps an eye on the European under-19 tournaments and national teams.
The 6'9", 230-pound forward averaged 9 points and 9 rebounds in the U-19 FIBA World Championship Tournament last summer and quickly jumped on everyone's radar.
By that point, Coach Rouco was already a friend to the young Saiz.
Sebastian transferred to Wichita, Kansas' Sunrise Christian Academy in 2012, and one of his first recruiting visits was from Coach Rouco and Ole Miss.
His high school coach, Kyle Lindsted says (from Scout.com):
"(Saiz) could have gone to any school in the country. He's that kind of recruit. The difference is schools don't really know about him because he's from Spain. This (2012) is his first year playing in the states."
After the 2013 World Championship Tournament, the world took notice.
Media outlets began to help put the word out, Ole Miss had a real gem in Saiz. ESPN's college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla was quoted at SBNation:
"Ole Miss fans, Christmas came early for you. 6'-8" Spaniard Sebastian Saiz is a rebound machine and NBA prospect in time! Impressing in Prague."
The Washington Wizards were also reportedly interested in signing him to a professional contract.
Coach Lindsted said a number of other schools began showing interest in Saiz, but Ole Miss was far and away his favorite school. "They did a good job. Serg speaks Spanish, so that was a big advantage for them. His mother was able to go on an official visit with him. It was a perfect fit," says Lindsted.
Saiz has been somewhat absent this season prior to the LSU game and not as assertive as he needs to be. That seems to be changing in a big way.
Andy Kennedy said in his post-game remarks:
"Saiz was the key. Marshall was back and had 25 points, but the difference in the game was we finally had a post guy finish some at the basket. We won a battle of the glass (49-41) against a team that was tops in the league in rebound margin."
The Rebs lost two senior leaders, Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, in the frontcourt last year. Getting production out of the young Saiz along with the high scoring guards, Henderson and Summers, could have Ole Miss back on the bubble for an NCAA tournament chance in 2014.
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