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Keys to Colombia's Growth in International Basketball

After the notable victory over powerful Brazil in the FIBA Americas window, the sport of the giants continued to show signs of its development in the coffee nation, a country that even maintains possibilities of qualifying for the World Cup of the specialty to be held in 2023.

Bryan Angola and Juan Tello

Photos: Flickr-SneakinDeacon, Wikimedia-Augustas Didžgalvis

LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano

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Leer en español: Claves del crecimiento de Colombia en el baloncesto internacional

It seems that the times in which shooting guard Stalin Ortiz was the only reference in Colombian basketball are long gone. The results of the women's sector and the 3x3; Jaime Echenique's presence in the NBA last season and Brian Angola's in the European leagues have helped this discipline grow and consolidate in the coffee nation, a country traditionally focused on soccer and cycling.

The most recent sample was seen in the recent window of FIBA Americas in which Colombia beat Brazil 104-98, the most important team of this sport in the region, which meant the second victory in a said tie and the guarantee of playing the second phase of the contest that distributes seven quotas for the World Championship of the specialty to be held next year in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.

A Victory to Celebrate

Colombia opened the last window on the verge of elimination since they had not accumulated victories until then after four games, but they hid behind their fans in Barranquilla to beat Chile 67-66, an expected result. Then he completed the miracle against the undefeated Brazil of former NBA players Marcelino Huertas and Bruno Caboclo.

For the first time in its history, the Colombian team was able to win a big tournament organized by FIBA, be it Qualifiers, Americas Cup, World Cup, or Olympic Games. Colombia showed signs of their growth by executing key plays, overcoming pressure from their opponents, coming back with everything against them, and having control of the offenses once they took the lead in the final overtime.

Juan Tello Palacios was the game leader under the paint with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Also, there is remarkable the perimeter ability of point guard Hansel Atencia (13 points) and star forward Bryan Angola, with 20 points and 10 sacks. The center André Ibarguen also stood out, he scored 17 points plus 12 rebounds and closed the extensive Michael Jackson group production with 16 units.

Keys to Growth

Having players with experience in the NBA like Echenique, although he is not part of the national team, and others who have been in camps of the best league in the world like Angola -who currently plays in Serbia after passing through Greece- plus the European presence of Tello and Atencia, open the range of possibilities towards the promotion and consolidation of this sport .

In Tello's case, he currently plays for the Estudiantes de España team and is a pivot of the new era with offensive ability, a good long-distance shot, and good movements. As far as Angola is concerned, he himself stands out for his one-on-one skill, and for his long-range shooting for his current team, Partizan Belgrade.

Having two players of this caliber not only generates a higher level in the national team but also encourages the development of those who come after.

Camilo Romero, manager of FIBA Americas 3x3, stated that in Colombia this specialty of basketball grows every day in the municipalities, the leagues, and the courts and stressed that the women's team is not only the Bolivarian champion but also the Pan-American.

“It is a global movement, an Olympic sport that is revolutionizing the world. In Colombia, a lot is emerging since we had it in the Junior Pan American Games in Cali where Colombia was champion. Many tournaments are being organized at the local level and the League is getting stronger,” he told Colombia.as.

Colombia is the women's Bolivarian champion in this specialty in which only one hoop is played and with three players on each side with practically the same rules of traditional basketball, but at a single time of 10 minutes and only 12 seconds to attack, and not 24.

"It is a sport that has been gaining strength worldwide and in Colombia, we put ourselves on the map and rank as a national team because it is a simple game to learn, a little more street style because it requires skill and physical intensity," told Carolina López, player of the national team to the mentioned medium.

Said women's team will be at the South American Games, a contest in which they will seek a place in the Paris 2024 Olympics and their preparation continues to debut soon at the Copa América in Miami. In women, it is where the Colombian development in this sport has been forged mainly, as well as the interest of the youth in learning and practicing it.

Recently, the women's representative was crowned champion of the South American League in Santiago del Estero (Argentina) after beating their counterpart from Ecuador 49-39. In this regard, the technical director of this team declared for El Nuevo Siglo. “Winning the South American league or the gold in the different competitions is a sample of the work and the process that has been carried out, it is not free, they are the fruits of what we have been sowing in recent years. It involves whole days, weeks, and months of preparation and sacrifices.”

Close to the World Cup?

Returning to the FIBA men's game, the good news for Colombia is that this victory against Brazil accounts for the second phase to which it has just qualified, since the results obtained are carried over to it, in this case against 'La Canarinha' and Uruguay. If Colombia had beaten Chile in both games, for example, it would be useless in this new phase.

At this stage, Moreno's team will have to play one at home and one as a visitor against the three qualifiers from Group D: the United States, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. The next three remaining windows will be played in the coming months of August 2022, November 2022, and February 2023, with two games per team in each window.

At the end of these additional six games, the top three teams in each group, plus the fourth-best team, will qualify for the World Cup. Colombia joined the survivors of D as classified from B to form the F bracket. In the other group, the three best from zone A, Venezuela, Argentina, and Panama, joined the three best from C, which is Canada, the Republic of Dominican and Bahamas, in order to form lot E.

For this reason, Colombia settles in the second phase with a record of one win and three losses and will have to seek to be the best fourth place of the two final groups to advance. The two duels against Puerto Rico, which is not experiencing its best moment, plus the game at home against Mexico, seem key to being able to achieve the feat of advancing for the first time to a Basketball World Cup by qualifying stage, because, although the Colombians already participated in 1982 fair, on that occasion they did not play qualifying rounds, since they advanced directly because they were hosts.