MEXICO CITY -- Bego Faz Davalos is used to standing out.
When she's in her native San Luis Potosi, just a walk down the street draws glances.
At 6-foot-3, she's taller than a majority of her Mexican countrywomen and men. Her size is tailor made for basketball glory, and growing up she had plenty to look up to.
“My father was a basketball player,” she said. “He's very good, and he was even selected to the national team." On the other side of the family, her mother was also an accomplished volleyball player.
From an early age, the Faz Davalos children were brought into sports as a way of life. “I started playing at a very young age. My siblings and I started playing in elementary school, and it took off from there,” she said.
Davalos' early dominance at the local level brought her attention quickly. Prior to high school, she was recruited by Monterrey Tech, the country's amateur sports powerhouse. “[Monterrey Tech] was a great experience for me,” the now-22-year-old Fresno State junior center said.
“My coach was very supportive and I still text with people on that staff,” she said.
During her prep days, Davalos made the jump to Mexico's national team, which she notes as a mixed experience. Though her participation at various international tournaments gained her much needed exposure and recruitment offers from NCAA schools, limited government funding often hindered their preparation.
“It was tough. We'd sometimes wait at the airport [prior to traveling to a tournament] and we wouldn't have our uniforms or our travel arrangements set,” she said. “Sometimes we wouldn't even have access to courts for practice.”
Despite the limitations in funding, Davalos' performance on the court with Mexico earned her many plaudits. In 2012, her dominant showings earned her offers from Division I schools to make the jump to the United States.
"I thought it wouldn't be such a big deal. I was used to moving around because of basketball. But I couldn't speak English. Everything was ten times more difficult because I couldn't understand things the first time around." Bego Davalos on adjusting to college and college basketball
She chose Fresno State, the only school willing to have her bypass community college as a entrance requirement. Fresno is a city of more than half a million people in Central California and over half of its residents are Hispanic or Latino, according to 2015 U.S. Census data.
Determined to make the transition as fast as possible, the realization she would need to focus on schoolwork in a language she didn't understand pushed her to a tough decision.
“I thought it wouldn't be such a big deal. I was used to moving around because of basketball,” she said. “But I couldn't speak English. Everything was 10 times more difficult because I couldn't understand things the first time around.”
Davalos redshirted her freshman year to concentrate in the classroom before focusing on dominating the court. Now, she boasts a GPA around 3.5 to go along with her impressive athletic stats.
A quick study off the court, Faz adapted to the rigors of Division I basketball as well. During her redshirt freshman season with the Bulldogs, the center was selected to the Mountain West All-Freshman Team. A season later, she led the NCAA in blocks with 136 -- an average of 4.0 per game -- and was voted as her conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
“She's developed and matured a lot [her sophomore year],” Fresno State head coach Jaime White told the Fresno Bee. “There were times when she would struggle and she was unable to change her game based on what the defense was doing or what we were asking. This year, she’s been able to adapt as the game goes on.”
Davalos ranks among the NCAA's best in multiple categories, including fifth in rebounds, third in double-doubles and second in blocks while posting career highs in points per game, field goal percentage and steals per game.
The advances in her game have Bego thinking of continuing her athletic career beyond the college, though she nervously laughed off any suggestion that she might land in the WNBA.
“Two years ago, I was just thinking about college as a way to build a career outside of basketball,” she admits. “Now, I wouldn't mind playing longer. If I got an opportunity, I would take it.”
Her dominant play has made her school and opposing programs wonder if there are more players like Davalos lurking south of the border, a topic she uses to promote fellow Mexican ballplayers. “There's talent down there, but no one knows where to scout or how to project [those players],” she said.
Though firmly focused on the present, Davalos is conscious of the opportunity she might have in the future to make her living in the United States, whether it's on or off the court, a chance that tears at her desire to be closer to her family, still living in Mexico.
“Most of my friends, my family and my culture are Mexican,” Davalos said. “But the opportunities in the United States, the chance to build a career and be successful is all amazing.”