If you kept your ear to the ground in Turlock it wouldn’t take long to hear negative small town sentiments from residents, particularly the youth. Because of this, sport is usually the main outlet for these children of Turlock. Still, the feeling of small town confinement persists for many of these athletes who see college athletics as their only way into a bigger world.
Brice Fantazia saw basketball as his route of evolution as he grew up in the Valley, and as his skills improved it became more and more apparent to the young man that success in the sport could be more than just an option—it could be reality.
For the past four seasons, Fantazia has been living that reality overseas, taking it a step further than college and playing professional basketball for European teams in Portugal and Scotland.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” Fantazia said. “I’ve been able to use basketball to see different countries and visit places I never thought I’d see.”
Fantazia’s road to professional basketball began with a difficult decision during his high school years. After three years in a Turlock High uniform, Fantazia transferred to Modesto Christian High where he helped the Crusaders win a state championship in 2004. From there, Fantazia made a stop at the College of Sequoias in Visalia before heading east and joining the team at Culver Stockton College in Missouri.
While at Culver, Fantazia was named first team All-Conference and led the team in assists his senior year.
Typically, college graduation would mark the end of the road for the majority of athletes, but Fantazia was determined to extend his playing days. Sure, the NBA wasn’t in the cards for the Turlocker but FC Porto was. And so in 2009 Fantazia signed his first professional contract to play in Portugal.
“Porto’s one of the top teams in Europe so it was a big deal when I signed,” Fantazia said. “It was surreal at first. I got there and there were grown men, 37 and 38 year olds, on my team and I was the second youngest player there.”
“My first season overseas I was homesick; it was by far the toughest. Now it’s just normal,” he added.
After leading FC Porto to a second place league finish and completing his one year contract—American players are regulated to one year contracts and only three are allowed on a team—Fantazia joined Scotland’s Glasgow Rocks in 2010, returned to Portugal to play for the SC Lusitania in 2011, and again donned a Glasgow Rocks jersey in 2012.
Currently without a contract, Fantazia is weighing offers from several European leagues including those in Portugal, Sweden, and Britain. To say his wait is a stagnant one would be wrong, however, as Fantazia has found a productive and inspirational way to spend his time through Fantazia Basketball, a training and college placement program aimed at the Valley’s young basketball talent.
“I work with kids who are ambitious and want to go as far as they can,” Fantazia said. “I’d like to help more kids get overseas.”
Fantazia’s 15-20 athletes include Turlock High’s Devan Bains and Demsen McFaddin and Pitman High’s Gurvinder Uppal as well as former Bulldog and current William Jesuit University player Lindy Avila, former Denair High standout Juan De La Cruz, and former Pride and Culver Stockton College standout Austin Keaton.
The program includes individual and group sessions, and takes place at several locations throughout Turlock.
“I don’t really have a fee; it’s whatever the parents can afford,” Fantazia said. “I don’t do it for the money. When I was a kid I would have loved to have someone with experience help me out. That’s why I do it.”
Fantazia is expected to sign his next contract by August and will return to Europe in mid-December. Those interested in signing up for the camp are encouraged to contact Fantazia before then. He can be contacted at 604-7341.