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This Baller Proved Mexicans Don’t Just Excel At Baseball, Boxing And Soccer

If you’re a fan of March Madness, you probably remember Lorenzo Mata.

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Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty

He’s the center from UCLA who went to a bunch of Final Fours and won several Pac-10 titles with the Bruins.

Mata was a big reason for UCLA’s three straight Final Four appearances.

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Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty

From 2006 to 2008, Mata teamed up with future NBA players Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo at UCLA. During Mata’s senior year, Mata accepted a move to the bench to make way for Kevin Love, providing energy off the bench.

He was also the pride of South Gate, California.

Credit: @14Matador14/Instagram

Mata has always represented his hometown of South Gate, California. He didn’t leave his city to play for a powerhouse private school. Mata stayed to play for South Gate High and took it to new heights.

Making it to UCLA’s storied basketball squad is no small feat, and Mata became an inspiration for other Latino ballers.

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Credit: Victor Decolongon / Getty

In 2008, Raymond Villalba, a South Gate High student, told the Los Angeles Times, “There haven’t been many Hispanics who do great at basketball. But he’s also getting a degree from UCLA and that doesn’t happen for many of us either. He’s a great role model.”

And Mata is grateful that his mother helped keep him on track.

Credit: @14matador14 / Instagram

Ron Davis, Mata’s high school history teacher, told the Los Angeles Times, “When I had him for U.S. history as an 11th grader, at first I noticed he wasn’t doing all the work. I spoke to his mother and his coach and pretty soon Lorenzo was buckling down. He was no dummy at all.”

So where’s Mata now? In Mexico, playing pro ball…

Credit: @14Matador14/Instagram

Mata went undrafted out of UCLA in 2008. That year, Mata joined the Los Angeles Lakers’ Summer League team with hopes of getting more attention from scouts. The center’s top choice was to play in Spain, but that soon changed and Mata elected to play his trade in Mexico.

He also plays for Mexico’s National Team, where he’s earned the nickname “El Matador.”

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Credit: LatinContent / Getty

Mata dreamed of playing for the NBA, but he’s still living the dream, bringing gold to his home away from home.

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Credit: LatinContent / Getty

Mata and the Mexican National Team captured the FIBA Americas Championship after defeating Puerto Rico in 2013. Mata was also a silver medalist with Mexico at the 2011 Pan American Games.

He’s currently playing for Pioneros in Cancún, Quintana Roo.

Credit: @14matador14 / Instagram

Not only does he have fans in Mexico…

Credit: @14Matador14

Yep, that’s Jesse Huerta of the pop group Jesse y Joy.

He’s also got lots of fans in Puerto Rico.

Credit: @14Matador14/Instagram

Why? Mata won the Baloncesto Superior Nacional championship with the Piratas de Quebradillas in 2013.

CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!! #piratasahi #puertorico #beastmode @cynthiacamacho_m

A video posted by LORENZO MATA (@14matador14) on

Credit: @14Matador14

Mata’s success in Mexico and playing club in Puerto Rico has led to many wild celebrations like this one.

Now that he’s made an impact in Mexico and Puerto Rico, Mata wants to continue inspiring young Latino basketball players.

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Credit: LatinContent / Getty

The list of NBA players from Mexico or with Mexican roots is slim. Although Mata doesn’t play in the NBA, his success with the Mexican National Team could inspire more Latinos to think big on the basketball court.

READ: Meet Some of the Latino Football Players Who Made NFL History

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