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Puerto Rican Nina de Leon defends her country with passion and confidence
SAN JUAN (Puerto Rico) – During the Centrobasket U17 Women’s Championship 2019, on the court for Puerto Rico, there is a player who at just 16 years old promises to give the island a lot of glories. She wears a bandana on her head and on her chest the number five, like her idols, Pamela Rosado and José Juan Barea, both soul and heart of their national teams, just like her.
Nina de León is a product of the youth categories of Puerto Rico, the Colegio Adianez, the FBPUR Youth Development Program and is emerging as one of the players with an international projection for a National Team that recently participated in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
De Leon is pure dynamite on the court, she defends tenaciously and on the other side, she keeps the dignified composure of a veteran, with all the mileage and maturity of the world. It is evident the confidence the coaches have on the player.
"It's because of the confidence that my coaches give me, they trust me a lot and that gives me confidence," said De León after the match. "I trust all my teammates.”
De Leon averages 15 points, four rebounds and five assists per match in the Centrobasket U17 Women’s Championship. In the first clash against Guatemala, De Leon exploded with 19 points, including three three-pointers in 28 minutes of action. She added 11 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds, in a comfortable victory against the Bahamas.
"Nina de León is a point guard that has a lot of skill," said coach Miguel Toro. "She is a young player; we took her from the U16 category. She is a pure point guard, who also has the ability to score. For her age, she is more mature than she should be. She plays like an adult. In the mental part of the game, Nina is above her age."
That maturity may come from consistently seeing two of their idols wear the Puerto Rican jersey with honor. De Leon shows that same motivation every night.
"I like the number five because of Pamela Rosado and José Juan Barea, I like to use it because of them. It motivates me because of the passes they make, how they motivate the players on the court and for their defense," said De León enthusiastically.
Early this year, the player from San Juan had already worn the patriotic colors in the FIBA U16 Women’s Americas Championship in Chile, where she helped push her team to a fourth-place finish. Now with the opportunity to play at home and even more at the Puerto Rican basketball cathedral, Coliseo Roberto Clemente, De León reacts excitedly to the opportunity to show her talents in front of friends and family.
"It means too much, it's an inexplicable emotion, since everyone supports you and it's something that I had never managed to feel," said De León.
How far do you want to go, Nina? "As far as God takes me" To the WNBA? "If God allows it, I'll get there."