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Spain's Sebas Saiz: ''Playing for a national team is one of every player's dreams''
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LA LAGUNA - Sebas Saiz says he fulfills a dream each and every time he puts on a Spain shirt in training or a game.
The 24-year-old center has featured in all 10 of Spain's games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers and helped the country clinch a spot in this summer's showpiece event taking place in China from August 31-September 15.
"EVERY MINUTE IS IMPORTANT. IT'S IMPORTANT FOR EVERYBODY TO KNOW YOU BETTER AND A CHANCE TO GAIN A SPOT ON THE (WORLD CUP) ROSTER."
It would be even more special for Saiz if he makes the Spanish roster for the World Cup, which will feature a record 32 national teams. To have a spot in Spain's side, Saiz must continue to show his best in upcoming practices and in the last window of the European Qualifiers.
"Every minute is important," said the 24-year-old. "It’s important for everybody to know you better and for a chance to gain a spot on the roster. I don’t know if I'll be in the (World Cup) squad or not, but I'll be ready if selected."
There is much to like about Saiz. He's a tremendous leaper and does a lot of good work around the rim at both ends of the floor. He's had some electric moments for a national team that heads into the last window topping Group I with an 8-2 mark. In Spain's very first game of the Qualifiers, a 79-66 victory at Montenegro in November 2017, Saiz had 9 points, 9 rebounds in just 14 minutes.
During Spain's second meeting with European champions Slovenia, an 83-72 triumph in Ljubljana last June, the 24-year-old had 10 points, 11 boards and 2 blocks. His best scoring performance came in his most recent outing, as his 12-point effort helped Spain take a 72-68 home triumph over Ukraine, a Second Round result that punched Spain's ticket to the World Cup.
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Spain wrap up their European Qualifiers campaign with a February 22 game at Latvia and a February 25 clash with Turkey in San Cristobal de la Laguna. The final fixture should be extra special for Saiz since it's also his home court with Iberostar Tenerife, one of the leading teams in the Basketball Champions League.
Right behind Spain in Group I are Turkey (7-3), who won the first meeting between the two teams in the last window, while Montenegro and Latvia (both 6-4) are third and fourth, respectively. Like Spain, Turkey have already clinched a spot so the third and final one in the group is still up for grabs. Ukraine (5-5) are also still alive.
"It's going to be tough (against Latvia)," Saiz said. "We're going to go over there and play them in their country. We already know it's going to be a tough game. They're desperate. They need this win to be able to make it to the world Cup. It’s going to be a nice game, an interesting game."
Saiz had 7 points and 4 rebounds in Spain's 85-82 win over Latvia in Madrid
Saiz warns Spain won't take their foot off the pedal despite having already qualified.
"You approach it with the same mentality that you approach every game," he reasoned. "You're playing for the national team and it's a game with great players, the best from each country. We've already played them both so we know how they are, the players they bring.
"We go out there to win. That’s the only thing. It doesn’t matter if it's to qualify or get to a final - it’s a regular game. You go out there to win."
Whether or not he ends up making the China-bound team, Saiz says he's gained a lot by being a part of Spain's qualifying campaign.
"Learning from all those great players and being around the great coaches has helped me a lot," he said. "(Spain head coach) Sergio (Scariolo) is a great coach. It's great to be able to play in all these different stages, with all of these different players, and playing against the best of the best.
"Every game with the national team, I learn something. Hopefully I can play for the country for a long time and keep learning."
There is also the pride factor.
"It means everything," he said. "At the end of the day, playing for a national team is one of the dreams of every player, just representing your country. The Spanish national team has been at the top for so many years so to be a part of that team now is something incredible."