Juan Tello: “We’ll give it all in the court”
MEDELLIN (FIBA AmeriCup 2017) - Colombian basketball will live an unprecedented moment when the national team debuts on Friday at the AmeriCup —their first appearance in a continental tournament that are not the Pan American Games.
Although there is much expectation among some of the team members, truth is that many deem the side as Group A’s most weak participants, since they’re facing veterans such as Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Nonetheless, the Colombians are ready to go against all odds.
“We're playing at a time in which basketball has evolved. I think history is important, but it disappears in the court,” argued Center Juan Tello, who informed his participation at the event a day before it started, when he received his club’s permission to play at AmeriCup.
The history of Colombian basketball is not as rich as its group rivals’, who hold a global total of eight continental titles. In Colombia's case, they have never qualified for a World Cup nor Olympics, and have only appeared three times in Pan American Games; the last one being in 1971, when the event took place in Cali. Meanwhile, at the South American level, their best position has been fifth, which they have achieved several times.
“We're doing a good job. Many players came from the United States, and now I'm added to the team. To all the fans that think that this will be easy: we’ll give it all in the court and we're positive that we can render good results,” added the 32-year old Colombian with league experience in France, Spain and Turkey, and who recently signed to play at the Lithuanian Neptunas Club.
The FIBA AmeriCup 2017 will be Tello's debut in the senior Colombian national team, a feat he shares with the 24-year old —also Center— Hanner Mosquera.
“We have a lot to offer. Everything I've seen is impressive. I think everyone will be surprised. We want to show everyone that we're capable of doing it and that we have a good team and good players,” said Mosquera, who has experience in the United States College Basketball.
For his part, the 36-year old Forward Stalin Ortiz treasures this opportunity, which he hopes will help to promote Colombian basketball.
“We've taken important steps. Being in the AmeriCup is very important. The idea is to continue, that the younger players learn what we’re teaching them and that they change our country's basketball history,” said Ortiz, a key player for Colombia during the last South American Championship. He averaged 17.6 points and 3.6 assists in the regional tournament that took place in Venezuela.
“We have the great ambition of changing a little the image of Colombian basketball. We were forgotten. The idea is to reclaim basketball, we have good players. We hope to play a good tournament,” he added.
Ortiz has worn his country's jersey since 2006 and this AmeriCup could be his last tournament with the national team.
“I think there’s still some basketball in me. There’s still some Stalin for a while, but I don’t know if I can continue with the national team because the international level requires more effort. It's quite a challenge to continue,” said Ortiz, who acknowledged his side’s lack of experience.
“Experience plays an important part in this and we have only a little, but with a lot of drive we can show that we have good basketball and that we can compete against good national teams. We're lacking more competitive cycles to be in equal conditions. We still need to work a lot.”