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A Honduran dream with Puerto Rican colors
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A Honduran dream with Puerto Rican colors

HONDURAS — Nelly Rápalo is a talented Honduran player who, since the very young age of four, practices basketball in her country under the guidance of her father José Leva (former player and Honduran coach) and her mother, Nelly Alessandra Rápalo July. She entered the national youth leagues and even competed at the same time in the adult leagues, but she always had her sights set on one goal —achieving her dreams and reaching new basketball heights.

With her great potential she played in Central American championship, Centrobasket competitions, and World Cup Qualifiers. She was the greatest scorer, with a 21.8-point average per game, at the 2015 U-16 Qualifiers in Puebla, Mexico, and in the 2015 Central American Championship in Costa Rica, with 104 points. Her last competition with Honduras was in the 2017 Central American Games in Managua, Nicaragua. She caught the eyes of several countries who scouted her to offer scholarships for her participation in their college teams and, three years ago, she accepted Spain’s offer.

Born in Tegucigalpa, she studied and played basketball there until 2015. She accepted the scholarship in Spain and traveled, at the age of 16, to study in Valencia. Meanwhile, she played for Club Claret Benimaclet; then, for Nou Bàsquet Femení Castelló; and currently, she plays for CB L’Horta Godella, where she’ll conclude her cycle this year.

“Closing this cycle in Spain is closing a stage of my life in which I've grown as a person and player. There's a different style of life and basketball. It's been worth it, but I must continue to grow and that's why I’ve chosen to take new routes,” assured the young player.

And this route is the one to continue fighting for your dreams. For this reason, she seeks an opportunity in Puerto Rico; a spearhead of elite competition in women's basketball in Latin America.

Nelly and her family communicated with Carmen Cuebas, a directive of the Honduras National Basketball Federation. She arranged, through Mr. Kenneth Dávila, Honduran collaborator in Puerto Rico (and coach and contact between colleges) to look for a scholarship that fit her perfectly. They achieved to do so in record time, with the University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón, who welcomed her immediately.

“Having played in Europe these last three years has made me change the way I think and look at the future. My objectives were always clear since I was young. I worked with my father since I was very young to be a professional basketball player and I feel that the University of Puerto Rico, who are offering me this scholarship, is one of the best options because they have the capacity and the high level to do so. I feel ready. The journey hasn't been easy, but my objectives in life are clear and I know that I’ll achieve them while I'm there,” stated Nelly.

Kenneth Dávila was key in finding the scholarship. The coach talked to FIBA and shared the details of this negotiation: “I had worked in Honduras in a connection process that was before Nelly, in a 3X3. That's where my friendship with Carmen Cuebas began and she told me about Nelly's desire to look for an opportunity to play in Puerto Rico. I had been watching her process for some years and I accepted the challenge. I analyzed different universities to choose the one that was more adequate for her.”

Dávila’s role has been fundamental in this negotiation, because he was the link between Nelly's parents and herself, and the university's sports director, Gerardo Batista.

“I have a great relationship with Gerardo, and we were able to reach an agreement where both parties are benefited. The university, with Nelly's talent. And Nelly, with the benefits, opportunities and the exposition that this possibility will give her.”

“Everything was done with a lot of effort. I have a strong bond with Honduras; they were the first ones that gave me the chance to be a basketball coach outside my country. I’ll always be grateful, and every time they need me to achieve a new mission, I’ll be there,” added the coach who’s experienced in finding scholarships for athletes.

The capacity and the dedication to achieve a dream is the most valuable thing, and this young player has demonstrated in Spanish basketball that when there's a will, there’s a way. And that's even truer because her parents have given her their full support and have motivated her to get to this dream that's almost impossible for many.

“I've known Nelly since she was 10. We were interested in supporting her dream, her human development, her academic and high-performance athletic dreams, which is why we immediately did with Kenneth the process to achieve this objective. This result makes Nelly happy. For us, as a country, this creates an immediate effect because it raises her competitive level, benefiting our national women’s adult team,” Carmen Cuebas highlighted.

Dreams exist to be accomplished. And Nelly does so every day and works toward a new challenge: “I try to grow as a player and person. I'm very happy and thankful for this opportunity. This is something that doesn’t come along every day. It requires a lot of sacrifice, practice hours, and work. Carmen, Kenneth, and my parents have been close to the whole process and I'm grateful to them for the opportunity of being able to accomplish my dream.”