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Going pro in Portugal

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Santa Fe High School alum Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage was one of the top players for Guimaraes in the Federação Portuguesa de Basquetebol, or Portuguese Basketball Federation, during the 2019-20 season. (Courtesy of Guimaraes)

A year ago, when Santa Fe High School grad Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage was getting ready to finish up at Wichita State after a strong four-year career, she set her sights on playing professionally.

Now that is a goal she can check off her list.

Lozada-Cabbage played the last season for Guimaraes Vitorias SC in the Federação Portuguesa de Basquetebol or Portuguese Basketball Federation. She arrived home about a month ago to rehab a severely sprained ankle.

“It was a really good experience, but it was really different,” she said. “Most of the rules were the same, but they had a 24-second shot clock. It was very slow, but fast at the same time. The shot clock was faster, but the play was slower. It was more team ball. More set oriented.”

Lozada-Cabbage was one of two Americans on the team and they shared a house with several other local players.

“They were really cool,” she said. “We would do stuff, go bowling and stuff. They were really inclusive, so that was nice.”

An historic city that predates the founding of Portugal itself, Guimaraes is almost 1,000 years old, and is filled with ancient castles and churches galore. One was right down the street from where Lozada-Cabbage lived.

“It’s a really nice city, but pretty small,” she said. “It’s like an older style. The roads were all cobblestones.”

A heavy practice and game schedule kept Lozada-Cabbage busy, but games did take her around most of the country.

“The culture is really different,” she said. “And it’s really humid over there. In the season, once the end of September came, I felt like it rained every single day for two or three months. I felt like it didn’t stop raining. That’s what they said their winters are like. I saw the sun maybe once every two or three weeks.”

Although there was a distinct language barrier, Lozada-Cabbage still managed to average 16.8 points per game, with 9.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals.

The language issue actually turned out to be something of a good thing.

“At first, it was quite different,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “Most of them spoke pretty good English. But in practice, our coach mostly spoke Portuguese, so we would do what everybody else was doing or one of players who spoke really good English would tell us. Most of the time, they were yelling at everybody and not us.”

While she stands 6 feet, 2 inches and played the post – the position she occupied while leading the Demonettes to the state championship in 2014 – she also shot 37.5% on 3-pointers.

“In high school, I probably shot like three 3s my entire career,” Lozada-Cabbage said with a chuckle. “But in my junior year of college, I started shooting 3s. Over in Portugal, I played more on the inside, basically the 5 position. But I knew I could shoot decently. I didn’t start off very well, but toward the end of the season, I did a little better percentage wise.”

She ended up in Portugal after her agent found a slot that looked like it would fit.

“He found me a team pretty fast,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “They had a pretty good contract for me, and so I went ahead and signed with them.”

With the coronoavirus wiping out the remaining few games, her one-year contract is over. Lozada-Cabbage had already found a job at El Gancho Fitness Club in Santa Fe and was very undecided whether she wanted to play another year abroad, especially after everything that has happened.

“Just being so far away from home was hard,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “I thought it would kind of be like being in college. In college, I was just a nine-hour drive from home if I really needed to get there. It’s not like being on the other side of the ocean.”

She’s still continuing her rehab, having just gotten the go-ahead to start running. Lozada-Cabbage has been out running a few times, but she hasn’t had a chance to shoot any hoops. So, for now, she’s going to hunker down like everybody else and ponder what her future holds.

“I’m not exactly sure what I want to do,” said Lozada-Cabbage, who has a degree in sports management. “I’m still trying to figure that out.”

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