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From the hardwood to the stage

Brandon Saiz used to play basketball at Northern New Mexico College, top. Now, he plays country and western music in the Brandon Saiz Band. (Courtesy of Northern New Mexico College)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Hitting the musical stage was not such a big deal for former Northern New Mexico College basketball player Brandon Saiz.

As a matter of fact, he felt quite at home.

A shooting guard who could flat fill it up from the outside, Saiz is a 2013 Bernalillo High School alum recruited to the Española campus by Eagles coach Ryan Cordova.

“I never did have any stage fright and I do think basketball had a big part in that,” said the 26-yer-old Saiz.

Much like folks in Española, Bernalillo residents love their hoops and pack the gym on game night.

“Bernalillo is a basketball town; it’s very well known,” Saiz said. “We get tons of people, thousands of people, at the games. I think having that experience with people constantly watching me, with everything on the line when I’m shooting a free throw, helped me transition to the music side of things because I had been on the basketball stage.”

Brandon Saiz used to play basketball at Northern New Mexico College. Now, he plays country and western music in the Brandon Saiz Band. (Courtesy of the Brandon Saiz Band)

It probably didn’t hurt that Saiz comes from a musical background, since his dad, Gary Saiz, had a good run as a musician across New Mexico in the 1980s and 1990s.

Brandon Saiz, who plays guitar and sings, said going to NNMC was an easy decision after meeting with coach Cordova.

“I had a few offers coming out of high school from some other schools,” he said. “I was actually sitting at Buffalo Wild Wings when Ryan Cordova called, offering me a look at the school and … a scholarship.”

It was a quick match, Saiz said.

“Me and coach Cordova really hit it off, person to person,” he said. “He’s never really been a coach to me, but has been more of mentor.”

Saiz visited Española and toured the campus.

“I knew I didn’t want to go to a major university because I feel like I would be lost on a campus that size,” he said. “Coming from Bernalillo, I kept to a smaller school. Española had that small-town vibe, which is what I was used to. I loved the vibe and it was not too far away from home.”

At 5 feet, 9 inches and 150 pounds, Saiz was not going to scare anybody with his size, so he had to make do with his speed and quickness, Cordova said.

He proved just how lethal he could be in his freshman season in a game at Colorado-Colorado Springs, a D-II school. He scored a career-high 23 points against a backcourt that included Derick White, who now plays for the San Antonio Spurs.

“Brandon was a pleasure to coach. His competitive nature, his basketball IQ and his ability to score the basketball were attributes that made everyone around him better,” Cordova said. “He was on teams that played in two consecutive conference championships, and you don’t get to conference championships and national tournaments without players like Brandon Saiz. His unselfishness and maturity were second to none and, when called upon, he delivered.”

But Saiz, playing behind an All-American for the Eagles, got a little restless and decided to drop out of college and enter the New Mexico State Police Academy.

“I took one year off to be a police officer,” he said. “I honestly decided that, in the time frame, something wasn’t right. It wasn’t for me.”

And there was that nagging feeling of leaving something undone.

“I had this grudge with myself for not completing college,” Saiz said. “Not completing that dream.”

So he turned back to Cordova.

“I called coach Cordova, hoping he could help me get enrolled back in school somehow, and he welcomed me back with open arms,” Saiz said. “That’s something that a kid would not have gotten at another school.”

And he came with a new perspective, as well.

“I had a different attitude about basketball,” Saiz said. “I had a really different outlook. I enjoyed my time the second time when I went back.”

His senior year was a crowded one as he finished up a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, played basketball and also was in a band that played local gigs.

“As youngster, you think you know everything,” Saiz said. “I guess I found out the hard way that I didn’t.”

He graduated from NMMC in 2018 and recently got a job at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a forensic drug and alcohol analyzer.

And he’s playing in the Brandon Saiz Band, bringing the energy that carried him on the court to the stage.

The Brandon Saiz Band is headed up by the former Northern New Mexico College basketball player. (Courtesy of the Brandon Saiz Band)

“Our main genre is country music, but we also love New Mexican Spanish music,” Saiz said. “For private events, we do the march and all the traditional stuff that New Mexicans love, and I love to play. It’s really fun. We really get the crowd going, that’s for sure. I’m more of a crazy guy on the stage, make everybody go as crazy as me. My shows are full of energy. We’re having a good time.”

The band released a video single called “Tequila & Two Step” that can be found on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music, and has been streamed in 67 countries, Saiz said.

A few months ago, the band released “A World I’ve Never Had,” which has been getting some play on New Mexico radio stations.

“I wrote it for every kid or every person affected by COVID-19,” Saiz said. “It’s been great. I think a lot of people were itching for some type of music. I made the decision to release it during the pandemic because the song speaks a lot for itself in terms of what people are going through. Especially the kids, they have been blindsided by it all.”