2 Yago Dos Santos (BRA)
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Atenas, Malvin, Titanes and Paulistano to jump start the enthusiasm

SÃO PAULO (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas 2019) — The wait is over. The DIRECTV Liga de las Américas 2019 starts this Friday, January 18, and 16 continental teams — including 11 champion teams representing 10 countries — are ready to seek the throne that is currently occupied by champions San Lorenzo de Almagro (Argentina).

The first four squads to set foot on the court will be Atenas de Córdoba (Argentina), Malvín (Uruguay), Titanes de Barranquilla (Colombia), and hosts Paulistano (Brazil), who will face each other in Group A, at the Antonio Prado Júnior Gymnasium in São Paulo.

The first game day will feature Atenas vs. Malvin, starting at 18:10 (host city hour), and then, at 20:30, Titanes and the host team will start their battle.

The historic Argentine club will come to the competition without a good streak in their local league. The squad led by Nicolás Casalánguida are currently last in the standings, with a 1-6 record, but that sole triumph arrived in their most recent appearance last weekend against Olímpico La Banda. Like this, they took a breath of fresh air and a bit of a sprint to face the international stage.

The experience will be the cornerstone of “El Griego”, who's counting on Golden Generation star Walter Herrmann, as well as on Nicolás Romano, former NBA player Josh Powell, Fernando Martina and the most recent incorporations — Bruno Barovero and Maxi Stanic.

Malvín, for their part, are Uruguayan league leaders, with a 14-5 record and a five-triumph streak. Coach Pablo López's troop is commandeered by Greek player Fotios Lampropulus, leader in point average with 17.7 points, center Hatila Passos, super veteran Nicolás Mazzarino, and small forward Marcel Souberbielle.

“The goal is to go to the Semi-Finals and prepare well. Atenas and Paulistano are good lineups and we must respect the Colombian team. Last year, at Liga Sudamericana, we couldn’t do what we wanted to, especially because we weren't doing well in the local (league) and we didn’t have any quality foreign players to be competitive at this level. We're currently in a good moment, but we still have a lot of space to keep improving,” said Souberbielle to Uruguayan newspaper El Observador.

“El Playero” also announced Brazilian center Atilio Gomes de Melo as a reinforcement for these commitments.

The second duel of the day will feature Paulistano and Titanes. Local hosts are currently fourth in the Brazilian NBB, with a 12-win, 4-losses record, and are also currently on a 5-victory streak.

Leo Meindl and Yago Dos Santos will be the quintet’s spearheads. The small forward leads in points (14.8) and rebounds (6.3), while the point guard averages 12.1 units and 5.1 assists. Shooting guard Evan Tyler Roquemore has also performed well for the squad commandeered by Coach Régis Marrelli.

Barranquilla, meanwhile, will be the only team in this group that are coming in without any local league activity, so the challenge will be even bigger for the Colombians, who will try to catch the game’s rhythm as soon as possible. Nonetheless, they've been training since January 7 and have played three friendly games against local teams.

“We can't be inferior. We’ll seek the possibility of qualifying to the following phase. We're not in tune and most teams that’ll play in this tournament are currently in local competitions. We've been idle for more than two months, which places us in a disadvantageous standpoint, but our roster is built for this international tournament,” said coach Tomás Díaz to Colombian newspaper El Heraldo.

Hanner Mosquera is one of the main pieces of the roster. The center will be joined by Austin Freeman, Mike Sneed, Xavier Roberson, and Venezuelan Elder Giménez and captain Eduardo “Pichi” Torres.

The best two teams in the group will move forward to the Semi-Finals.