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Brazil's Benite endorses Qualifiers, stresses value for sport and fans
MURCIA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers) - Vitor Benite is relishing the opportunity to compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers because it allows him to return home and connect with Brazil's passionate fans.
Benite, who played in Brazil's two triumphs in November, will be with the national team when it hosts Colombia and Chile in Goiania later this month.
He spoke to FIBA.basketball.
Starting with the national team, in November's World Cup Qualifiers you helped Brazil beat Chile (86-73) in Osorno and then Venezuela (72-60) in Rio de Janeiro. What is your take on the new system of the World Cup Qualifiers?
To be in Brazil competing in this new format, it's amazing. I like the way it's set up. A lot of teams that never had the opportunity to play official games at home, they can do it now. They can do it more than once. They can play close to the fans. For the sport, it's really important.
So in your experience, FIBA's New Competition System is liked in Brazil?
In Brazil, people love basketball. We had the Olympic Games but before that, we never had the chance to play official games at home. Now we get a lot of games at home and this is really good to be close to the fans and to be able to compete in front of them. This is the best part. Also, one day earlier, I had the opportunity to be with my family and of course they came to the game. This is really good because the season is hard and sometimes you just want to go home for a couple of days. I had the opportunity to be with my friends at the game, they were supporting me, so that was pretty awesome.
Brazil legend Oscar watched the team beat Venezuela in November
With games at home in Goiania to Colombia (February 22) and Chile (February 25), Brazil are still getting used to new coach, Aleksandar "Aco" Petrovic, the former Croatia boss. How is he fitting in?
Perfectly. Coach Petrovic is already talking a little bit of Portuguese and showing he wants to learn about the culture, the players, our system. He wants to bring all of his experience to us. I love this. When you have a coach from another country who speaks another language and has another culture, we (the players) want to see him learn more about us, about our country and Petrovic is doing that every day. When we get on the court, he wants us to play with confidence and happiness. This is Brazil and he wants to strike a balance for us playing our kind of game with the systems that are better for us.
Benite says new coach Petrovic is a "perfect" fit for Brazil
Why did you decide to leave Flamengo a few years ago?
It's always good to get out of your comfort zone. In Brazil, I was playing in the best team in the league. We had won the last three national tournaments and had a lot of good stuff going on, so I was in my comfort zone. I was close to family and friends. To go off to the ACB (he currently plays for UCAM Murcia in the Liga Endesa), and to have to prove myself every day and to improve and be able to compete at this level, I think it was really important for my game. After my first year, I had my first Olympic Games, too. It's helped me and showed me why you shouldn't be comfortable, always try to get better and try to play at a better level.
"IN BRAZIL, PEOPLE LOVE BASKETBALL. WE HAD THE OLYMPIC GAMES BUT BEFORE THAT, WE NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO PLAY OFFICIAL GAMES AT HOME. NOW, WE HAVE A LOT OF GAMES AT HOME AND THIS IS REALLY GOOD TO BE CLOSE TO THE FANS TO BE ABLE TO COMPETE IN FRONT OF THEM"
While your Brazil team came up short of reaching the Olympic Quarter-Finals, was your Rio de Janeiro Games experience positive overall?
There are so many players that want to do that, so to be there and be able to compete against those guys, it was amazing. Actually now, every time I have a bad moment in my career, I always think, 'Look at what you have done. You have played at the Olympic Games, you've played against the best teams in the world, and you were you able to compete against them at the same high level.' So when I'm struggling, I think about that and it gives me confidence to keep on going, to always believe in myself.
Benite had 13 points in 15 minutes against Argentina at the Olympics
What do you remember about Brazil's 111-107 overtime defeat to Argentina, one of the most famous games at that Olympics?
As a Brazilian, it's always a big thing to play against Argentina. Everyone in the team knew that that game was really important. We lost that game but I feel like it was one of the best games I've ever seen at a competition like the Olympics. For me, I was sad because we lost and I didn't play as much as I wanted to because I was feeling good in that game, but for my confidence, my mentality, that was pretty awesome to score 13 points in 15 minutes and help Brazil get back to the game and take the lead, that was huge for me. I'll never forget it.