30 Christian Pizarro (ARE), 22 Johwen Villegas (ARE)
11/02/2019
Long Read
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Capitanes de Arecibo fights against the current

PONCE (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas) – What is obvious still needs to be acknowledged. Capitanes de Arecibo are the Liga de las Américas’ historic team, the one that's been in each one of the tournament's twelve editions. However, their worth increases when you look at them in the corret context: the Puerto Rican team built their roster outside of their national league’s calendar, meaning that there are challenges and thus, a greater effort is required.

The franchise’s owner, Luis Monrouzeau, makes an interjective gesture when asked about the work needed, and explains that “it’s a difficult and arduous task because it requires additional investments, and many times we don’t have our main players. However, we continue to look forward to Liga de las Américas because we see its improvement each year. Besides, we believe that the future of basketball is in international competitios. If you remain in your local tournament, you’ll get stuck.”

For Capitanes, this continental tournament participation requires for them to start to train a month before, which also means signing longer contracts. However, the franchise’s manager, Ángel García, acknowledges that “Liga de las Américas is the backbone of our project because it allows us to measure ourselves against rivals of a great international quality, puts our players in competing conditions faster, and allows us to achieve a cohesive group. All these factors help us to be in better conditions to participate in our Superior League.”

The numbers speak for themselves, they're unquestionable, and don’t leave any space to challenge García. Of the eleven previous seasons when Arecibo participated in Liga de las Américas, they reached the final series of the National Superior Basketball League in Puerto Rico in nine occasions, and in five of them (2008, 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2018) they got the title.

The manager explains Capitanes’ methodology and states that “we concluded our league in September and in October, along Monrouzeau, we started to scheme our participation in the continental tournament, we built our training calendar and we saw with whom we were counting on. Sometimes we may use our most outstanding assets, and sometimes not.”

Here's one of the two greatest problems Arecibo faces each international season: the lack of some of their main Puerto Rican figures. This time, the most significant names missing are Walter Hodge (who’s currently at Lebanon), David Huertas (Mexico) and Denis Clemente (Mexico). The situations regarding Guillermo Díaz and Renaldo Balkman are different, since both players, according to the team, are in the trading market.

“In our players’ contracts we include their appearance at Liga de las Américas. Many of them are interested in this tournament because it has great exposure and they may be signed in larger leagues in other countries. When one of them gets a good contract overseas, we respect that,” García explains.

In other years, Capitanes were always able to present several of their main figures, but in the 2019 edition of Liga de las Américas they couldn't count on any of them. How did they face the tournament? According to García, “we kept a core with Villegas, Chamo Pérez and Cintrón, and we took a bet on the development of younger players like Christian Pizarro, Rodríguez and Matías. They all have supporting roles when we play with the whole team. Now they have to carry the responsability of being in the spotlight. This will help them grow. To support them we decided to sign more determining foreigners, that’s why Holman, Emmett and Rudd have more important tasks.”

Aside from the sports planning, there should be a financial structure that supports it. Monrouzeau, who acquired the franchise in 2007, a few months before beginning their first appearance at Liga de las Américas, points out that "we have a series of sponsors that support us and make this effort a reality. 90% of those sponsors are here since the project began. That shows the confidence they have in us and I involve them in the strategic decisions of the franchise. None of them give us anything for free, they invest in Capitanes because we offer them an international TV presence.”

Capitanes continue to set their sights on Liga de las Américas, no matter what it does outside of its season (for quite a while they have been advocating to BSN so that they change their “summer league” calendar and bring it closer to what FIBA encourages), or the fact that many times they lack their main players. “The people of Arecibo know that we are and that we’ll continue to be in Liga de las Américas. We have a commitment toward them, and the tournament and we’ll have that forever, despite the challenges,” Monrouzeau concludes.

Alejandro Pérez