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Caffaro has winning recipe for Argentina: play as team, pay no attention to the outside
BUENOS AIRES (Argentina) - Argentina are no strangers to the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, and this summer’s team is led by returnee Francisco Caffaro, who will be coming to Heraklion extra motivated to play and with a winning recipe.
Argentina qualified for the U19 World Cup for the 13th time in 14 editions - missing only 1987. The South Americans twice have finished on the podium - taking third place in 1979 and 1991. Argentina have been close a number of times since then with six top eight finishes including fourth place in 1999 and 2009.
Caffaro hopes to keep up at least that 10-year rhythm of reaching the Semi-Finals. One thing that will help for sure is his experience.
Francisco Caffaro playing for Argentina at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017
The 6ft 11in (2.12m) big man was the only 2000-born player on the Argentina squad from two years ago in Egypt, where he averaged 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 15 minutes, including 11 points and 6 rebounds against New Zealand. That Argentina team did not actually qualify for Cairo 2017 as they finished fifth at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2016. But they were given the spot when Brazil was disqualified due to a suspension.
"We came into the tournament as the underdogs and we still managed to end up as the eighth best team on the world. That will always be something I will remember about this team and that tournament," said Caffaro, who missed the 2016 U18 Americas tournament with a broken finger.
The Santa Fe native wants to use his experience from Cairo to help his teammates in Greece.
Francisco Caffaro was one of the leaders for Argentina at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2016
"I think every experience helps. In this case, something I learned from that tournament and team is not to listen to the outside and focus on what we know we can do and fight for what we want. It doesn’t matter if the outside is saying good or bad things, we know what we can do and we just have to prove it," said Caffaro, who also played at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2016 and averaged 8.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.
In addition to not listening to the outside world, the other half of Caffaro’s winning recipe is play as a team.
Another injury - this time one that led to knee surgery - kept Caffaro from playing this past season for the University of Virginia in his first season in US collegiate basketball. He ended up red-shirting the year, meaning he was allowed to practice with the team once he was healthy but not to play any games.
"It was hard. At the beginning I didn’t really think about it because I was focusing on my recovery as I had knee surgery. But as I started to practice again it became harder just to sit on the bench and watch the games without even playing," he admitted.
The Cavaliers went on to capture the NCAA title - the first in the program’s history. And Caffaro watched first-hand how playing as a team can lead to success.
"I learned a lots of things, but something that I learned and will be able to help us for the U19 World Cup is playing as a team. Not many college teams play as a team. There is lots of one-on-one, and Virginia has shown the past few years that playing as a team at both ends works. This year was the year that got us the title, but it’s something that has been working for a few years already," Caffaro said.
The big man actually could face off with one of his Virginia teammates in Greece if Argentina meet up with Australia, for whom Kody Stattmann is one of the stars.
An Argentina vs Australia game at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 would mean a showdown of University of Virginia teammates Francisco Caffaro and Kody Stattmann.
"I’m looking forward for that one. I really hope we get to play them. I pretty much know the whole team. While I was in Australia with the NBA Academy, I lived and played with most of them. Again, they have a really good team, I really hope we play them, it should be a fun time," said Caffaro, who attended the NBA Academy in Australia for two seasons.
But having not played this past season, Caffaro is really looking forward to getting back into games in Greece, where Argentina are drawn into Group C with hosts Greece, Philippines and Russia. And he knows the team will be strong, especially since it will likely add strong players who were not on the team that finished third at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2018, where they lost to Canada by 17 points in the group stage and to the United States by 12 in the Semi-Finals. Leandro Bolmaro and Juan Francisco Fernandez are based in Spain with Barcelona and Fuenlabrada respectively. Neither played at the U18 Americas last summer, just like the Weber Bahia Basket duo of Tomas Chapero Juan Cruz Marini, who have played with the generation in past events.
"Every player will be fighting for a spot in this team, but also helping the team to get better. What I expect not only for those players but for everybody on the team is to give 100 percent every practice or game and be ready for whatever might happen," Caffaro said.
“I LEARNED A LOT OF THINGS (AT VIRGINIA), BUT SOMETHING THAT I LEARNED AND WILL BE ABLE TO HELP US FOR THE U19 WORLD CUP IS PLAYING AS A TEAM. NOT MANY COLLEGE TEAMS PLAY AS A A TEAM. THERE IS LOTS OF ONE-ON-ONE, AND VIRGINIA HAS SHOWN THE PAST FEW YEARS THAT PLAYING AS A TEAM AT BOTH ENDS WORKS.”
That 100 percent effort is the only thing that Caffaro expects.
"In my opinion there are no expectations. I think we have a very good team and could do very good. It’s basketball, anything can happen. But all I know is that we are going to give our 100 percent every time we step on the floor. When you give 100 percent every time, the result doesn’t matter because you know you did your best," he said.
Caffaro has seen that first hand knows how the winning recipe can work.