Boise State Student Athletes Far From Home at Christmas

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There's no place like home for the  holidays... unless you're a student athlete. While the campus of Boise State University is buttoned up for the long holiday break, more than a few athletes, coaches and athletes are keeping their eye on the ball in lieu of a Christmas tree.

The Boise State football team is gearing up for a New Year's Eve Fiesta Bowl contest versus the Arizona Wildcats. Meanwhile, Boise State's men's basketball squad has spent a good chunk of its holiday week in Nevada at the Las Vegas Classic. Unfortunately, the men's basketball team lost in Tuesday night's championship game, falling to Loyola (Chicago), 48-to-45.

And there will be no rest for the basketball team, as it heads to Colorado State where it will play on Wednesday, Dec. 31.

“You are sacrificing your family time and your social life for the sport you love,” senior men's basketball guard Igor Hadziomerovic told Boise Weekly. “There are obviously going to be some sacrifices that you are going to have to make for that.”

Hadziomerovic was born in Sarajevo but his home is in Australia, making it nearly impossible to see his family during the holidays.

“It is always hard when your family is not here, obviously,” said Hadziomerovic. who added that he tries to talk to his family every chance he gets. “I talk to them through Facebook and Skype and stuff. We always stay in contact still.”

Meanwhile, Yaiza Ortego, a sophomore guard for the women's basketball team, is also far away from home—she's from Spain.

"Even when I was home in Spain I wasn’t seeing my family a lot because I was with the international team so much,” she told BW. “It has become kind of a normal thing for me to be away from them and them away from me.”

Both Hadziomerovic and Ortego said their families encouraged them to seek out the best opportunities for themselves, even if meant being so far away from them.

“I am here in part because of them,” said Ortego, whose next game is Dec. 31, at Boise State's Taco Bell Arena, where the women's basketball team takes on Colorado State. “I was more looking to play in Europe but my dad told me to come here to get my degree and play basketball.”

While they are not seeing their own families this year, the student athletes are spending the holidays surrounded by people who care for them. Hadziomerovic said fellow teammate Nick Duncan's mother and father are "like a second family to me.

Ortego is spending the holidays with teammates Brooke and Brittney Pahukoa.

“I am thankful that I have my teammates because they are helping me a lot right now,” Ortego said. “I feel like right now they are my family.”

Despite the hardships of not seeing their families, both athletes indicated that their sacrifice has been time well spent.

“It has been worth it because [being at Boise State] will give me that degree and that experience,” said Ortego.