Néstor Colmenares, the pride of Venezuela
PONCE (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas 2019) - “Is Colmenares a Center? No. Is he a Power Forward? No. Is he a Small Forward? No. But he's the best player I’ve got.”
It was Néstor “Che” García who asked and answered these questions. The Argentine coach led Néstor Colmenares both in Guaros and in the Venezuelan national team. Both won the Campeonato Sudamericano twice, in 2014 and 2016 at the Olympic Qualifiers in Mexico in 2015, and in the 2016 edition of Liga de las Américas. “Che is a spectacular coach. He made history with us. He made us believe that we could play head to head and defeat anyone. He changed our mindset a lot,” says Colmenares.
The Guaros and Venezuelan national team Forward has a greater confidence than his physique and talent. Added to his constant work, he's turned into an outstanding player in the Americas. “I love to watch basketball every day from every league in the world. When I watch it with my wife, I tell her who every player is, how he plays and how hard it is to face some of them. And she tells me that when they see me or have to face me, they must think about how complicated it is to play against me. In fact, I had to face great stars and I never give up, I'm never afraid of anyone,” says Colmenares.
Guaros was the first team in the history of Liga de las Américas to be champions in two consecutive editions of the tournament, in 2016 and 2017 — and in the former Jorge Arrieta was already coach. Colmenares highlights the value of these conquests: “They were very important. Above all because the Guaros organization invested a lot of money, with good imported players like Taylor, Wilkins and Graham, so that Venezuela could get the continental title for the first time, and that caused a great impact. The second time around we confirmed everything that we had worked on and we got to the highest point again.”
For the 2019 edition, Guaros were coming in from a long period of inactivity, since the professional Venezuelan league has yet to begin. However, they've consciously prepared to stay among the best teams in the continent and qualified, undefeated, to the Semi-Finals phase. The period in which they only trained was difficult. The best way they found to go through it was with Colmenares’ jokes and joy, since he's always causing his teammates to have fun.
“We had been more than three months without playing for Guaros. We trained for a month and a half without competing. We need to joke a bit and we can't be serious the whole time. My attitude causes my teammates and coaches to relax,” Néstor states. He then adds: “Before starting the games I put music on so that everyone frees their thoughts. When I don’t do it, they ask me: ‘What's going on, why isn’t there any music?’ That helps us release it all in the locker rooms and then go out to the court like we should. I like to lead there. I know that Heissler Guillent and Grillo Vargas are captains, but they listen a lot to me too. We have a core of players from the national team and we've been together for six or seven years. We share the game's concepts, we've been for two years with the same coach in Guaros and we know each other well. Like that we can concentrate in the court to be able to play. I always give a 100% in the games, I give all my energy.”
That same joy he shares with his mates is the one that Colmenares shares in the interview. However, he gets serious when the subject calls for it. And that happens when he starts to talk about the instant when he decided to use the number 43 in his jersey: “My father had a tumor in his head and died from cancer at 43. That's why I use that number, as an homage. I was in college in the United States. I was 21 and I came back to Venezuela to be there during that moment. I used to wear the 44 and I changed from that point on.” Néstor’s father gave him advice, since his relationship with his mother wasn’t as close: “I confided more in my dad, he was like a brother to me. I wasn't too close to my mother, but it's gotten tighter since then. I'm an only child and since we're the only ones left, now we're much more united. She’s always paying attention to the games.”
And just like his father did with him, and now his mother, Néstor lives to follow the growth of his seven-year-old daughter, Victoria Nicole. “She’s a spectacular girl, very intelligent. Every time I'm in Caracas I'm with her. I love her,” shares Colmenares as a smile draws up while he speaks wonders of his little Victoria.
This 2019 has a special goal for Colmenares: playing in his first World Cup. “Every day I practice to improve. This year the goal is the World Cup, and that's something big. The situation in our country makes us work twice as hard to bring our people a little bit of joy. In the last five years we've achieved important things and we’ll continue to do so.”
All Venezuela national team and Guaros fans may agree with Néstor ‘Che’ García’s analysis: Is Colmenares a Center? No. Is he a Power Forward? No. Is he a Small Forward? No. But he's the best player they've got.