Bego Faz Davalos has been a big force coming off the bench for the Fresno State women’s basketball team, playing solid defense with a big reach that comes from standing 6-foot-3.
The Bulldogs’ lone freshman leads the Mountain West conference in blocks per game (4.8) and ranks 20th nationally, averaging 2.87 per game.
But just because Davalos has the height, that doesn’t mean basketball in the United States has come easily for the native of San Luis Potosí, Mexico. She played in high school at the Tecnológico de Monterrey and has spent five years with various squads with the Mexican National Team.
And in less than two years at Fresno State, she’s been learning English while trying to absorb everything coaches tell her. It’s been a grind at times.
“ ¡Uuuuy!,” Davalos groaned in Spanish. “ Fue una transición sumamente difícil.”
As part of that “extremely difficult transition,” Davalos (whose full name is pronounced BAY-Go FOZ Dah-Vol-OS) is often shy and uses few words during post-game news conferences.
“Everything is in English,” she said. “For me to retain all of that information in a new language was very hard. At first I didn’t understand. I got nervous and stressed out.”
She started learning English at the start of last season and got help during practices from former Bulldogs assistant Angela Gonzaga, who would pull her aside and translate instructions from Raegan Pebley. But once Pebley left for Texas Christian and coach Jaime White and her staff came in, Davalos turned to her teammates.
Starting center and mentor Toni Smith has had the most patience, Davalos said.
What helps is Smith’s knowledge of Spanish. The 6-foot junior center took two years of the language in high school and two at Fresno State.
“Some things I’ll say in Spanish on the court when (Bego) doesn’t respond quick enough because it’s in English,” Smith said.
Some examples are when the Bulldogs run a play called “nose.” Smith will say “ nariz” (nose) to Davalos. Smith will also throw in “ escucha” (listen) to help Davalos refocus.
“I can only imagine how hard it is hearing, especially Americans because they don’t slow down,” Smith said.
The two have provided the Bulldogs some interior defense and also have added offensive punch in the post behind forward Alex Sheedy. The starter/reserve relationship has been beneficial to both.
“You’re this part in my brain that I don’t have,” Davalos told Smith.
“We’ve joked about it and still to this day,” Smith said. “I tell her, ‘Remember, I’m this piece of your brain that you don’t have.’ ”
During Saturday’s 65-43 rout of Nevada, Davalos scored 14 points and added six blocks, five rebounds, four steals and three assists in 27 minutes off the bench, earning a bear hug from assistant Mandi Carver as Davalos was subbed out in the final minutes.
“I was really proud of her,” said Carver, who coached the Bulldogs against Nevada with White out of town dealing with a death in the family.
“It was a different perspective for me — I usually spend most of the time in her ear,” Carver added. “It shows her growth because she was able to do that on her own. It was like taking the training wheels off.”