Any number of fun facts could illustrate the talent possessed by The Master’s University men’s basketball team last season.
The NAIA No. 1 ranking. The 29-3 record. The conference title.
Here’s another: TMU point guard Hansel Atencia starred for Colombia’s national team in a FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifier this summer, playing more minutes on average than anyone in the tournament, while averaging 18 points a game against competition that included former NBA players.
Atencia’s scoring average tied for third best at the Americas qualifier, one of four qualifiers across the globe.
Colombia finished 1-5, failing to qualify for the second round due to a tiebreaker with Chile. But Atencia, a rising senior and a native of Bucaramanga, Colombia, displayed the skills that made him an All-American in Newhall last season, knifing through defenses, firing off threes and creating for others.
Against Chile on June 29, Atencia tossed in 21 points with eight assists. He tallied 12 points and four assists a few days later against Brazil, which featured former NBA players Marcelo Huertas (Lakers) and Anderson Varejao (Cavaliers, Warriors).
Overall, Atencia averaged 4.5 assists during the competition, which consisted of three two-game series in November, February and June/July.
Atencia missed Colombia’s two February games as he was helping the Mustangs win their first-ever Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season title. Master’s went on to win its conference tournament for the second straight year before earning the No. 1 seed in the NAIA tournament.
Atencia returns for 2018-19 as a centerpiece of a squad that should open the year in the top five of the NAIA preseason poll.
“What an incredible experience for Hansel this summer,” said Master’s coach Kelvin Starr, who has gone 56-8 in his first two seasons at the helm. “He played against some of the best players in the world. This could set him up for an All-American type senior year.”
Atencia averaged career highs of 15.5 points and 4.3 assists as a junior at TMU. He carried over the quality play to the international stage where he held an impressive 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Atencia, 21, would like to play professionally after Master’s. This should help.
“I think this is a great opportunity for me to show my game and show people that I can play against these players,” Atencia said. “I want to go pro after I graduate, and I think playing with the national team will help me with that.”
Van Horn homers in three straight games
Master’s alum Brandon Van Horn, a shortstop in the San Francisco Giants organization, had homered in three straight games as of Monday.
Van Horn homered for the High-A San Jose Giants on Thursday. He did it again on Saturday and again on Sunday. Two of the blasts were of the solo variety. The other was a two-run shot.
Van Horn has hit eight home runs in all this season, his second full year as a professional, and six in the last month.
In 2016, before the Giants took him in the 19th round, Van Horn hit .280 with 11 home runs for TMU, helping the Mustangs to the first of back-to-back trips to the NAIA World Series.
He’s since come to be known for his glove. Before this season, Baseball America ranked Van Horn as the best defensive infielder in the Giants minor-league system.