Since Christian Vega was a child, the Puerto Rican native had a dream to play Division I basketball.
“It was a dream of mine since I was a little boy,” Vega said. “The first thing that came to my mind was to play Division I basketball. “
During his first season with the Saint Joseph men’s basketball team in 2014-15, Vega found himself practicing with the team but not suiting up for games.
That changed last year, as Vega was welcomed by the team to join as an official walk-on suiting up for home games. All of the hard work finally paid off for Vega.
“It was my first full year with the team,” Vega said. “Last year being a member of the team and being able to win the [Atlantic 10] Championship and go to March Madness was a dream come true.”
He appeared in two games last season, making his debut against Fordham and also playing against La Salle.
“This is a special program and I’m very thankful for the opportunity the coaches have given me,” Vega said.
Vega did not always know where he wanted to attend college. Of course, he followed college basketball and some of the bigger games on television. He also watched Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal win a championship and then Bryant and Pau Gasol win one for the Los Angeles Lakers, too.
Vega remembers the first time he heard of Saint Joseph’s basketball growing up in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, which borders the capital of San Juan.
“The first time I saw them was when they were ranked number one in the country with Jameer Nelson,” Vega said. “Back in 2004, I was around eight or nine years old.”
After that, Vega became hooked and started watching more and learning more about SJU. It is one of the things that brought him here from Guaynabo.
Another of those is his major, food marketing. In food marketing, students study how food is manufactured, marketed, sold, and more. Most go on to work for companies such as General Mills, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and more. In Vega’s eyes, it’s how the “food is marketed from crops until it gets to your table.”
“Not many universities have that program,” Vega said. “I thought it was interesting because everyone needs to eat. If you don’t eat you will die.”
Food has been an important part of Vega’s life since he was young; it’s almost ingrained in his DNA. His father owns a restaurant called Metropol Restaurant in Guaynabo. Metropol specializes in Cuban and Puerto Rican food.
“A lot of people say I should continue with my dad’s restaurant,” Vega said. “But I would like to work for a company like Coca-Cola and try to move up the ladder.”
When he graduates, Vega is unsure if he will go home or stay in the United States. He has been weighing his options but he knows he’ll eventually go back home in the future to be closer to his family. Right now, he is just trying to enjoy college and hopefully win another Atlantic 10 Championship.
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Growing up in Puerto Rico, many of the kids end up playing baseball.
“Baseball is the first sport; you can’t compete with that back home,” Vega said.
While playing baseball for his club Bucaplaa, his father one day asked him if he wanted to play basketball. After all, Bucaplaa’s basketball court was right across the way from the baseball field.
Playing for club teams is more important than playing for a high school squad, Vega said. He has been with Bucaplaa since the age of four, but his time with the club is winding down; Vega has two more years left, as the club is for players aged 22 and under.
While the basketball in Puerto Rico is somewhat different, Vega said that basketball is basketball no matter where you are. The only difference is in the playing style and athleticism of the players.
“Here it is more quick and physical,” he said. “Back home, the game is slower and more mental. They don’t have the height and strength like players do here.”
As for life after basketball for Christian Vega?
“I’ve been around basketball all my life,” he said. “Maybe back home at my club, I could coach. That’s not my first goal, but if the opportunity comes I can take it.”