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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Talent groomed internationally, a bond formed at boarding school

After helping his high school team win ESPN’s National High School Invitational last April, freshman Miguel Cartagena – GW’s newest point guard talent – saw a familiar face in the stands.

It was Patricio Garino, GW’s defensive stopper who had just come off a standout year for the Colonials.

Garino, a teammate of Cartagena’s at Montverde Academy in Florida just a year ago, was not there only to cheer on his old team. He had come to entice Cartagena to GW in part because of a strong bond the two developed at the prep school near Orlando.

“He used to take care of me, and watch out for me,” Cartagena said. “Patricio is like the older brother I never had. He’s always being that brother to me. When things are not going good, he’s always been there. He’s always that guy to tell me, ‘Hey, tomorrow is another practice, another day, just keep it up.’”

Much of that connection was spurred by the distances the two men had traveled. Both came from outside the U.S.: Garino from Mar del Plata, Argentina, and Cartagena from Aibonito, Puerto Rico.

They both also dazzled on the national stage for their home countries.

Cartagena has represented Puerto Rico since he was eight years old, most notably in 2011, where he played in the FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship. He led the competition in scoring at 22.4 points, scoring a high of 36 points against Canada.

Meanwhile, Garino joined the Argentinean junior national team at the age of 14. Both players said that representing their countries have been some of the best experiences of their lives.

Cartagena decided to make the transition to the U.S. in the summer of 2011 to play basketball for head coach Kevin Boyle at Montverde – a nationally renowned program built up by former GW assistant coach Kevin Sutton. The program modeled that of a college team, with a high level of competition, scouting and television exposure.

Initially, Cartagena struggled to adjust to boarding school life in the U.S.

“It was tough, being away from home that much of the time,” Cartagena said. “I think that the biggest fact that I always point out is the type of independence that you have to have. It was something that helped me grow as a human being and as a player.”

Having gone through the same experience himself, Garino was able to help Cartagena tremendously during his transition, acclimating him to school life and the team. The pair became close, so when Garino came back to present him with the opportunity to play side by side again, Cartagena weighed the offer heavily.

Within weeks, Cartagena visited GW, met with the players and coaching staff, gave his verbal commitment, and days later signed his national letter of intent to play for head coach Mike Lonergan’s team.

Garino, who is most familiar with Cartagena’s on-the-court tendencies, rattled off a scouting report for his teammate’s on-court strengths.

“He’s not selfish at all, he has a really high IQ, and he knows how to play the game,” Garino said. “He can really shoot. He’s not that tall, but that’s not a problem for him. He might have to put on some weight at the college level, but he knows how to move his feet, he is really quick and understands how everything goes.”

Now, with Garino coming off a strong freshman season that saw him finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 in steals and Cartagena entering as a skilled point guard, the pair hopes their chemistry can help GW.

Garino says that he has worked hard on his ball-handling and outside shooting, which will complement his already strong defensive presence that helped him set a GW freshman record with 68 steals. The 6-foot-6-inch forward says he’s also gotten stronger, and will feel more comfortable going to the rim this season after playing through a meniscus injury at the end of last season.

Garino faces adversity already, though, before even having played a single game this year: He fractured a finger during a preseason practice, which required surgery Oct. 25. Lonergan said he expects Garino to return to the lineup in early December.

Cartagena, the 6-foot-2 guard, will look to back up sophomore point guard Joe McDonald for most of the season, but right now, has a chance to make a great first impression with McDonald recovering from a hip injury. In the team’s exhibition game against Bowie State, he showed his ability to avoid defenders with his ball-handling, scoring 11 points. Cartagena is ready to be Lonergan’s second option, and at this point, just wants to learn and improve his game – like he once did before with Garino.

“I really just want to be a sponge and learn as much as I can,” Cartagena said. “I also want to improve my body as much as I can, and make a transition to become a better point guard and a better player. I want to do as many things as I got to do to make our team win.”

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