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Argentina's Laprovittola: ''Going to the World Cup is something that every player dreams of''
LA RIOJA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers) – Argentina completed its mission and qualified to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 following impressive wins against the USA and Mexico in front of sold-out crowds at La Rioja.
Nicolas Laprovittola was a leading factor for the Argentinians, scoring 17 points and 8 assists against the USA and adding 13 points and 3 assists against the Mexicans. FIBA.basketball spoke with Laprovittola after the Argentinians secured a spot at China 2019.
Argentina made the best out of this window by reaching the qualification to the next FIBA World Cup…
That was the goal and we reached it. We are so happy and so proud to have been able to reach our spot to the next FIBA World Cup and I am so relieved that we did it on this window, so we can wrap up the year in the most amazing way. We had two tough games against two great teams, but we were focused and motivated to get the wins and seal our qualification during this window. Going to the World Cup is something that every player dreams and being able to do so in a year in China is going to be very good for us and for Argentinian basketball. We still have plenty of time to get ready for it, but we are all already looking forward to this competition.
Two games, and two wins at home in front of a huge crowd both times. How was it to achieve the qualification at home?
I think there is nothing more exciting than winning and qualifying in front of your home fans. It was so good to see thousands of people waving flags and cheering for us, it makes you feel good even more when you win and make the fans happy. We have amazing fans, we always feel their love and support and that is very important for us. We feel the passion, the pride of being Argentinian in every moment, and to see that passion surrounding us gives us more strength and energy. We reached the qualification and it’s also because of them, of their constant support that we were able to do it too. Sharing this kind of moment, like we did during and after the games, was so unique. It’s more than basketball.
The first game against Team USA was pretty intense. What was the key to this win?
We had a good first half, but we went to the locker room for halftime knowing that we could do better. We came back in the court for the second half full of energy and wanting to step up our game, so we did better in this quarter to show team USA that we wanted that win more than anything else. I think it was one of our best games in the campaign so far, and we were happy to win against such a great team as the USA. We shared the ball very well, the defensive movements were good, and we played at a pretty good level, mostly in the second half. When we play at this level, we are a very competitive team and we can beat a lot of opponents.
The game against Mexico seemed to be a but easier…
Not really, because Mexico wanted to beat us, and they had some pretty good moments during the game. None of the games were easy but we love competing and you have to struggle sometimes to feel the difficulty of winning a game at this level. Everybody knows that Argentina is one of the best teams in the continent, so everyone wants to beat us. That means that there are no easy opponents to play against and we have to bring our A game every time, so we don’t get surprised by the intensity put on the court by our opponents.
What are the keys of success for Argentina?
I would say the unity, the passion and the hard work. We never start a game without the motivation of showing that Argentina is one of the most competitive teams. We don’t take anything for granted, and we have to show game after game that we can beat a lot of teams and play at a very good level. We have always the same motivation and the same energy, no matter who we play against. That is our DNA, our fighting spirit culture is always present, and it is what defines us. We won’t ever give up on anything, we won’t let our mindset turn negative or not fight to win. That is how we are, and we won’t ever change. That is one of the keys of our success. We have also a lot of talented players and great basketball IQ, that is also very important.
There are still two more games in the next window. How important are they for Argentina despite having already reached the qualification to China 2019?
They are very important games because we want to finish with the best record and get the first spot of the group. We also are going to play two games away from home, so those are going to be two tough ones against Puerto Rico, who still can reach a spot for China 2019, and against Team USA, that would probably want to win after losing against us on this window. Every time we get on the court or we play, we want to win so this mind set is not going to change despite having reached the qualification for the next FIBA World Cup. There aren’t any games that we don’t want to win, we want to win and compete no matter what the context and situation is. Those two games are important ones, and we want to get the job done perfectly in this campaign.
How important is the great example and the leadership of veteran Luis Scola for the team?
He is the pillar of the national team, he is so important to us. He still plays with the same passion as if he was 20 years old, and that is so inspiring for all of us as he always gives 100% when he is on the court. He is great leader, like a big brother to all of us and we really always appreciate any advice he gives us. That is very important to have guys like that on a group, and you feel that you can learn a lot and try to follow his footsteps. He is an example of inspiration for all of us, and one of the prides of Argentinian basketball. Playing at this level after so many years at the highest level is such an amazing thing.