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Argentinian basketball today: all guts no glory
SAN JUAN (William Rosario's Somewhere in the Americas) - What a hellish couple of weeks these have been for Argentinian basketball. The federational aspects of the game in the country have gone down in flames and it looks like it will be a while until they can get back on their feet. A true shame.
First, on April 29, National Federation President German Vaccaro resigned citing personal reasons. Immediately corruption rumors followed and there were rumblings that his exit was caused by pressure coming from the Golden Generation players who indicated to the government that they wouldn't play if the same federational structure was kept in place.
Then Vice-President Ricardo Siri assumed the top position and seemed to quiet down critics by promising an audit of the past finances of the federation. But Siri lasted only a couple of months when the statutes of the federation were brought up and elections had to be held to choose a new president.
In a surprising last minute result, Santiago del Estero, Sports Sub-Secretary and 5th vocal of the Argentinean Basketball Confederation (CABB), was elected as new president. And he promised a different audit.
But nothing seemed to be happening and the players put their foot down in the only way they could and announced, this time publicly, that they wouldn't play if there wasn't a big shake-up of every top guy in the federation.
This happened last week, led by Luis Scola, along with Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Pablo Prigioni and the whole front nine set to play in Spain. The players made themselves very clear: they have won enough, now they are looking to win maybe their biggest challenge to date which is to take control and correct the path of the future of basketball in the country.
They are willing to risk everything, their preparations and even their participation to fix what they have perceived has been a hurtful administration of the game in the country for the last couple of years. They know the time to do so is now, when they are still relevant. All of this takes guts on their part.
So, the pressure worked and Zanni resigned within three days of the press conference. Who became president after he went away? Siri again, who was still Vice-President, but he too resigned the next day and Fabian Borro, the 2nd Vice-President at CABB - and Obras Sanitarias president (who is up to become national league president too by the way) - became the captain of Argentinean basketball. Three presidents in three days. And there is still more to come, but who knows, in this crazy political chess play, anything can still happen.
The thing is, on the sporting side of it, the worst was still to come and two days ago, Ginobili, the most important basketball player in the history of the country, who had announced he was sure to play in Spain, had to step down after having the San Antonio Spurs deny his availability due to medical reasons.
This was the toughest blow. The Golden Generation will not go out on their own terms, and that's a sad fact not only for the country but for world basketball.
But just last week I attended the South American Championship in Venezuela and I can assure you of one thing... there's light at the end of the tunnel.
In Isla de Margarita, we saw the future of the national team of Argentina and I can tell you, it looks good.
After years of critics pointing out that Argentina did not have players to substitute the Golden Generation, this 2014 South American "B team" showed some real promise.
There was Matias Bortolin and Marcos Delia, two seven-footers (2.13m) that were a true presence in the court. Combined, both "men" averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds per game, and more importantly they played better in bigger games.
That's because the most important thing about this foursome is that none of them is older than 22 years of age.
This means they have a solution to the always problematic big men dilemma. But who are the point guards? Well, they have some of the best talent at that spot on the continent. They have Facundo Campazzo (who is close to signing a multi year deal with Real Madrid) and Nicolas Laprovittola, who has a stellar international career ahead of him. These two guys are under 23.
So yes, it has been a horrible time for Argentinian basketball lately, but the most important thing is to not lose perspective and maintain the political side of the discussion apart from the sports side of it all.
On the sports side, Argentina has a structure that goes all the way from mini to professional basketball that is pretty bulletproof. It also has lots and lots of responsible people that are truly worried about maintaining it for the sake of future generations.
I have hope that these three or four steps back will eventually mean ten steps forward. This country has been great, elite, for more than 15 years and we all benefit from it staying that way.
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