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De la Fuente and Argentina 'family' want to finish youth career with special U19 World Cup
MAR DEL PLATA (Argentina) - The FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 will be bittersweet for Juan de la Fuente as he gets to play on the global stage for a third time with Argentina but it will also be his last tournament with his "family" of teammates.
De la Fuente and Argentina will feature in the country’s 13th appearance at the U19 spectacle, which has been played 14 times in all. And the 18-year-old cannot wait to play in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete from June 29-July 7.
"Of course we're excited," de la Fuente said about playing another youth tournament for the blue and whites with Argentina facing hosts Greece, Philippines and Russia in Group C.
Juan de la Fuente made his international debut at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2016
The Mar del Plata native's first time playing on the global stage came three summers ago at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2016 in Zaragoza, Spain. De la Fuente was still just 15 years old and averaged 1.1 points and 1.3 rebounds in 7 minutes.
"I was very young, and I learned many things: training habits, coexistence in the hotel that we were staying, et cetera," he recalled.
One of the special moments about that U17 World Cup was the game against the eventual champions United States.
"When we played against Team USA, I remember the intensity of those guys. They proved to be on another level," de la Fuente said of the 109-56 Round of 16 loss, in which he missed all 6 of his shots, finishing with 0 points with 1 rebound and 4 turnovers in 16 minutes.
De la Fuente was not the only 2000-born player for Argentina in that tournament, which was for the 1999-born generation. Also on the team were Francisco Farabello, Christian Bihurriet, Francisco Caffaro and Andres Bodach. That group will undoubtedly make up much of the leadership core for Argentina this summer in Greece.
Francisco Farabello playing at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2016
"It helped us to be prepared and with a desire for something better at the U19 World Cup. We have been training three years for this tournament," said de la Fuente, who plays for Argentina top flight side Quilmes Mar del Plata .
The 2000 generation has been together now since 2015, playing at an international U16 tournament in Turkey, the 2018 Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Germany and last summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship . And this will be the last run together.
"It is sad, but motivating at the same time, because we are more than just a team, we are friends and family," the 6ft 6in (1.98m) forward said. "I hope we can finish this process as well as possible and continue with our career."
De la Fuente not only has strong international experience to call upon, but also important lessons learned at the club level. Along with Juan Ignacio Marcos and Marcos Giordano, he has played important minutes in the Argentina national league, while Leonardo Bolmaro has played well for Barcelona's LEB Gold team in Spain and Francisco Caffaro has been practicing with one of the best teams in United States college basketball Virginia, who reached the NCAA Final Four.
"It helps us a lot. Most of us are competing at a high level, and that's great to be prepared for the tournament," said de la Fuente, who has averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 24 games for Quilmes.
If de la Fuente needs to ask someone about big game moments, he can just go to his father, Esteban de la Fuente, who played for Argentina at the FIBA Basketball World Cups in 1990 and 1998 as well as the 1996 Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament in Atlanta.
"It's a great honor for me that my father was part of the national team," the younger de la Fuente said. "He was a great player although I didn't get to see him in action for long. One of my favorite stories is when he talks about the World Cup in 1990 and playing with a broken hand."
Actually Juan de la Fuente is an Olympic champ in his own right - having won the gold medal in 3x3 basketball at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
Juan de la Fuente, Marcos Giordano, Juan Hierrezuelo and Fausto Ruesga celebrate winning the gold medal at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games.
"The Youth Olympic Games was a great experience. It helped us a lot as players, not just me but my three other teammates," said de la Fuente, who won the title along with Giordano, Juan Hierrezuelo and Fausto Ruesga - all four of them also playing at last summer's U18 Americas Championship, in Canada where they finished third. "I think it will give us an extra advantage for the U19 World Cup. I’m very anxious to play this tournament."
As far as what expectations Argentina have going to Greece, de la Fuente said: "We want to show that we can compete as equals with world powers. We will do our best."
Their best as a family finishing off a youth career together.