Fantastic Voyage

Jan. 7, 2009

In 2004 in Athens, Greece, Puerto Rico's basketball team posted one of the biggest upsets in Summer Olympics history. Behind 24 points from Carlos Arroyo, Puerto Rico defeated the United States, 92-73, in first-round play. The loss was only the third for the Americans in Olympic competition and the first since National Basketball Association players were allowed to participate in the games in 1992.

Isaac Sosa was 14 when the upset occurred. Now in his freshman year at UCF, the shooting guard hopes that like Arroyo, he can represent his homeland in the Olympics.

Sosa is already a regular on the international scene. He has spent the previous two summers competing for Puerto Rico. Two years ago, he helped host Puerto Rico claim the Centrobasket U17 Tournament. This past summer, Sosa averaged 13.8 points and 3.2 rebounds at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Argentina.

In 2009, he will suit up at the FIBA U19 World Championship in New Zealand. Sosa is relishing the chance to represent his country.

"It is a lot of pride. Not everyone in the world has the opportunity to do that," he said. "It is a great opportunity."

Sosa knows that his path to the 2012 Olympics in London will not be an easy one. Just because he is currently playing for the national team, he is not guaranteed a spot on the senior squad in the future.

The freshman is certainly familiar with difficult routes, so it is doubtful that the challenge of trying to represent Puerto Rico on the world's greatest stage will be daunting for Sosa. His journey to the United States, and to UCF, was circuitous to say the least.

Sosa, who has been playing basketball since he was six years old, and his family faced a difficult decision three years ago. Because of his basketball abilities, Sosa was targeted to attend prep school in the United States by an AAU coach in Miami.

A native of Guaynabo, which is located south of San Juan, Sosa ended up at a school in Wisconsin. Basketball brought Sosa to the United States, but also took him away from his family.

"They were very supportive," Sosa said of his parents. "It was hard for them, because I had always lived with them. It was very, very hard for them. They understood it was best for me."

He began his junior year in a strange, unfamiliar place. How did Sosa cope with living so far away from home? Basketball.

"I knew that I was going to be somewhere completely new and have to make new friends. As long as it was for basketball and to help me develop as a player, I needed to do it," he said.

Following Sosa's first semester at Concordia Prep, the school folded due to financial issues. Sosa was in Puerto Rico when he learned that his new school had closed. At first he was unsure about his next destination. Sosa then learned that the AAU coach, Art Alvarez, had arranged for him to attend Grandview Prep in Boca Raton.

Sosa made his basketball debut for Grandview in fall 2007 and it quickly became apparent that his voyage to the United States was worthwhile. He attracted the attention of college coaches with his strong offensive game. Sosa garnered Florida Class 1A All-State First Team honors after averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds.

He helped lead Grandview to a 28-2 mark and a trip to the state title game. UCF assistant Craig Brown watched Sosa compete numerous times last season and was impressed by Sosa's ability and basketball savvy.

"His knowledge of the game is very good," Brown said. "He is very crafty from the offensive standpoint and also from a one-on-one standpoint. Some people might question foot speed, but I think he makes up for it because he is a smart kid, he wants to be good and he is going to put in time (to get better)."

Sosa impressed not only the UCF coaching staff, but also the program's fans immediately at the start of this season. In the Knights' first game, he hit four 3-pointers and totaled 18 points in a win over North Carolina A&T at the UCF Arena. Although he exudes coolness on the court, Sosa admits that he still has a lot to learn about the game.

"I feel very confident," he said. "I just feel that I need to get more confident. I am just trying to do everything right. I am just trying to correct it when the season goes by."

Off the court, Sosa is enjoying life at UCF. He compares Orlando's climate to Puerto Rico's and is also excelling in the classroom.

Even with the Knights, Sosa is representing his homeland. UCF's sports marketing staff utilized his heritage prior the season, featuring Sosa on a Spanish schedule poster, and he is happy to serve as the program's liaison to the Hispanic community.

"There is a huge Latin population (in Orlando). It is great that they are trying to use my image to bring people from Latin countries to our games. I am very happy about that."

Sosa has already traveled away from his homeland to play the game that he loves. He is hopeful that his basketball voyage will continue at UCF and beyond.

- Doug Richards