From Venezuela to Colorado Springs

The Brazilian U17 boys didn’t do well on the U17 South American Championships at Guanara Portuguesa, Venezuela, last week. After one month of practice in Londrina and São Paulo, the squad coached by Saviani and assisted by Cadum, a former Nat’l Team forward, succumbed in the semis to the Argentineans.

So far so good. It was a one point game (63-64), and Matias Nocedal and his boys were dreaming about revenge since last November in Montevideo (U16, read the last column). Besides, Pablo Orlietti, the 6’9 forward/center, has developed his game and took some of the pressure of Nocedal’s back, generating some problems to the Brazilian big men.

The real problem was the bronze medal game. After crushing the Uruguayans in the qualifying round, the Brazilians played badly and lost a key game for the future of this generation (1990). A win would give Brazil the chance to play in “Copa America”, so it could later try to qualify for the U19 World Championships. Good for Uruguay!

Not enough time to shed tears as the kids boarded a plane from Venezuela to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for an intense week of games against the top high school players in the United States. Five contests, five 30+ point losses, one lesson: our kids must eat a lot of black beans before they can play top level basketball.

I’m not into negative thinking though. The tourney put the Brazilians to task against 30 of the most promising NCAA future stars. Guards like Jrue Holiday, Korie Luscious, and Tyreke Evans, and forwards and centers like Greg Monroe, Delvon Roe, and Al-Fariq Arinu, true stars of the hoop world. Kids that envision success in the NCAA courts, and a probable NBA draft selection in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

As you can realize the test was great, and the opportunity was unique. As stats show, some of the Brazilian kids, like Vitor Benite, a Rio Claro guard, André Silva, a Franca forward, and César Mapelli, a EC Pinheiros forward stand out were able to take full advantage of the situation by playing above expectations.

All three of them were in Montevideo last year, where Vitor and André took on leadership roles. Vitor shows a level of maturity hard to be found among kids his age (16, 17), and a very serious look on his face with dedication written all over it. André too. Soft spoken, relaxing gait, and Franca-experienced.

The ‘special case scenario’ through, is on César Mapelli. In 2006, he played a supporting role in the U16 South American Championships due to an injury during training sessions in Uberlândia, Minas. In Venezuela, last week, he also played minor roles when compared to his teammates André and Rodrigo Silva, colleagues in the paint.

However, in Colorado Springs, playing against tougher opponents hard to be found (impossible?) in South America, César was Saviani and Cadum’s ‘go to guy’ averaging 21.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 assists in 31 minutes per game. Impressive numbers that will at least get him some looks from NJCAA and NCAA scouts.

Congratulations, but let’s not get caught up on isolated facts. I invite you to take a deeper look into our team.

Brazil still struggles on its back court game, a key aspect of sound basketball. To be able to handle well possession under tough defense has always been one of the toughest tasks in the game, especially when facing USA squads. Bigger and stronger, American kids seem to have enough stamina to play 90 minute soccer matches with basketball intensity.

In Colorado Springs, Brazilian guards had an average of 2.9 turnovers and 4.9 efficiency points (Brazilian Basketball Federation uses the following formula to analyze stats: <points + rebounds+ assists + blocks + steals > – < missed field goals + turnovers >) while American guards averaged 2.8 turnovers, but 17.9 points in efficiency. And what an efficient group of guards they had!

They were much more active than our guards not only in scoring but in every key aspect of the game, capturing 45% of their team’s rebounds (against 34% of the Brazilians), dishing 76% of the assists (against 71% of the Brazilians who averaged 2.7 per game versus 4 by the Americans), denying 36% of all blocked shots (against 26% of the Brazilians), and stealing 65% of all stripped balls (against 38% of the Brazilians).

In summary American guards were all over the court. In order to strengthen its overall game, Brazil has to better its guard game by forcing its kids to be more active in the game as a whole and more calm, but objective, when handling possession under strenuous defensive systems. The fact that our big men are not as agile as kids like Delvon Roe, and Greg Monroe, is another key factor that should make our game more guard-focused (as far as efficiency, not scoring or rebounding).

Our kids must learn how to practice and play under pressure. These are important pre requisites for the development of great guards and that’s how Argentina and Spain strengthened their game and became international basketball powerhouses. Look at Delfino, Ginobili, Prigioni, Calderon, Navarro, and so many other classic examples.

The Brazilian ‘Efficient 5’

Vitor Benite, 6’1, guard (1990), 9.6 efficiency points (e.p.)

Rafael Alves, 6’7, forward (1991), 8.2 e.p.

André Silva, 6’7, forward (1990), 15.3 e.p.

César Mapelli, 6’7, forward (1990), 20.4 e.p.

Augusto Lima, 6’9, center (1991), 13 e.p.

The Tournament’s most efficient

Greg Monroe, 6’9, forward (class of 2008), USA White, 33.4 e.p.

Delvon Roe, 6’8, forward (class of 2008), USA Blue, 32.8 e.p.

Tyreke Evans, 6’4, guard (class of 2008), USA White, 26.6 e.p.

Jrue Holiday, 6’3, guard (class of 2008), USA Blue, 26.2 e.p.

Devin Ebanks, 6’8, forward (class of 2008), USA Red, 26 e.p.

Scotty Hopson, 6’5, guard/forward (class of 2008), USA Blue, 23 e.p.

Ed Davis, 6’6, forward, USA Red, 22.2 e.p.

Al-Farouq Aminu, 6’8, forward (class of 2008), USA Red, 21.8 e.p.

Lance Stephenson, 6’4, guard (class of 2009), USA Red, 20.6 e.p.

César Mapelli, 6’7, forward (1990), Brazil, 20.4 e.p.

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