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Bauru the champ, Brazil the winner
SAN JUAN (William Rosario's Somewhere in the Americas) - Bauru has done it. The Paulista club is the 2014 South American Champion and they did it in dominating fashion. They wiped out the competition in this 2014 edition.
It all started with their offseason. The team went out and signed every top player in the market, getting veteran great Alex Garcia, skilled big man Rafael Hettsheimeir and sharp shooters Robert Day and Jefferson Andrade. This foursome to go along with Larry Taylor, Murilo Becker and young prospect Ricardo Fischer. They were great on paper and confirmed it with their play in this Sudamericana campaign.
The key to this impressive run - during which Bauru had an average margin of victory of 21.3 points per game, ending up winning their Final Four games by 46 and 26 points respectively - is the constant figure of their head coach Jorge "Guerrinha" Guerra.
The former national team great in Brazil's golden years has been there at the helm ever since the team started appearing regularly in international club competitions a couple of seasons back.
The team was founded in 1996 and had as its biggest achievement being the second professional team for which Leandro Barbosa played. They popped up in the 2012 Liga de las Americas and made it to the semifinals with Taylor as team star and captain. He's been there since the first season of the NBB (Novo Basquete Brasil) in 2008-09.
Last year, Bauru made it all the way to the Final Four of this South American League and were eliminated in one of the all-time classics of the competition against Aguada of Montevideo and a legendary performance from Leandro Garcia Morales.
It all changed with the arrival of Alex Garcia. The newly-crowned MVP of this South American League has given this team an edge they did not possess prior to this season. They have become a great defensive team, always at full intensity and with an amazing fight in them. If you've seen Garcia play before, you know this is his MO. He is physical, aggressive and a true winner. I talked about it a couple of columns ago.
If ever there came a time to put players in the Sudamericana and the Liga de las Americas, there is no way he can be left off it. He has won everywhere, three Sudamericanas, one Liga de las Americas and with the national team.
Bauru truly deserves this championship. They were better on the court and resilient off it. Greatness all over that we'll now be able to see also in the Liga de las Americas come January against better opposition. Even with that, they are still candidates to win it all at the next level too. Flamengo are in for a fight to win it back-to-back.
Brazil is the big winner after this Sudamericana. They are now the official powerhouse in continental competitions especially at the club level. With this title they have now won the last two Sudamericanas, the last two Liga de las Americas and the last Intercontinental Cup. If you pair that up with the national team's sixth-place finish at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, you can safely say that Brazilian basketball is going through a great international moment in the sport.
I hope that every basketball entity in the country can take advantage of the moment; that the national federation, the national league and the state associations can make something out of all this winning and financially make the sport viable in a country with a population of almost 200 hundred million people. I believe they can. There is too much going on.
The NBA came for a second year in a row to Rio de Janeiro, and even invited Flamengo to go play exhibition games in the United States. That is some important recognition from the best and most financially sound basketball entity in the world. If they are seeing potential in the country, there is no denying their worth.
It is now time for Brazil's national basketball to reap some of those benefits. Bauru's big South American title definitely helps the equation.
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