Scariolo: Players return to clubs with more confidence after Qualifiers spotlight
MADRID (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Of the many pluses to have come out of Spain's unbeaten start to their World Cup Qualifiers campaign, one has been that players have returned to their clubs with more self-belief.
Spain coach Sergio Scariolo has called on players champing at the bit to play for the national team and they have seized upon the opportunity, excelling in victories over Montenegro (twice), Slovenia and Belarus.
"Absolutely," Scariolo said to FIBA.basketball. "I can name Sebas Saiz, Edgar Vicedo, Xavi Rabaseda, Oriol Pauli. All of them improved their efficiency. They got more confidence, more experience, more helpful for their club teams."
"THEY WERE IN THE SPOTLIGHT. THEY WERE HONORED FROM THE WHOLE COUNTRY, THEY GOT COMPLIMENTS THEY WEREN'T USED TO. THEY PROBABLY HAD BIGGER ROLES THAN THEY DO WITH THEIR CLUB TEAMS ... SO FOR A BUNCH OF REASONS, THEY HAVE STEPPED UP AND COMPETED AT THE NEXT LEVEL" Scariolo
Spain have given chances to quality players and they have delivered with terrific performances. Much has been said of the great contributions from Quino Colom and Fran Vazquez, but many others have performed exceptionally well too.
To hear Scariolo praise Saiz, Pauli, Vicedo and Rabaseda demonstrates just how important the opportunity to compete for Spain has been for the players. It also illustrates how not just the players and the national team benefit, but also the clubs.
Why have the national team members returned to their club sides as better players?
"Because they were in the spotlight," Scariolo said. "They were honored from the whole country, they got compliments they weren't used to. They probably had bigger roles than they do with their club teams which have so many foreign players in the ACB league so for a bunch of reasons, they have stepped up and competed at the next level."
Scariolo has experienced the highs of steering Spain to the top of Europe with titles at FIBA EuroBaskets in 2009, 2011 and 2015 and third place in 2017, as well as claiming Olympic medals with silver in 2012 and bronze in 2016. It's also been extremely gratifying for him to work with the players on the Road to China 2019.
"THEY GO BACK TO THEIR CLUB TEAMS IMPROVED. NOT THAT THEY IMPROVE AS A PLAYER WITH ONE WEEK, BUT I WOULD SAY IMPROVED WITH MORE CONFIDENCE, MORE MOTIVATION" Scariolo
"Of course (it's a good feeling)," he said. "They go back to their club teams improved. Not that they improve as a player with one week, but I would say improved with more confidence, more motivation."
Scariolo will have more options to choose from for the third window of Qualifiers, during which Spain will play at Slovenia (June 28) and at home against Belarus (July 1). Other players that have not been available will be putting their hands up to play. That might be the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, and could include numerous others from last year's EuroBasket team.
Scariolo says Gran Canaria's Rabaseda is better after playing in the Qualifiers
The coach does think that some of those who have performed so well for Spain in the first couple of windows will have a great chance of making the roster.
"We'll see," he said. "We'll make a decision. We start with a good base, which has been honesty and loyalty. We said from day one to each one of our players (that have played in the games) that we were offering them a week of hard work, possibly to wear one of the most admired and even envied shirts in the basketball world and that our commitment was that.
"We never promised them anything besides that. But of course we appreciate a lot what they did so let's see if we can find a good balance between giving the opportunity to the rest of our family, to the guys who, through no fault of their own, could not participate in the first four games.
"These guys (from the first four games) will be the guys who will drive us to China World Cup. They will be the guys that will have to compete in November (2018) and February (2019). I think we can find a spot for a few of them on our list."
"WE REWARDED PLAYERS THAT DESERVED TO PLAY FOR THE NATIONAL TEAM WHO DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE TO DO IT BECAUSE THEY WERE BASICALLY RIGHT BEHIND ABSOLUTELY TOP LEVEL WORLD SUPERSTARS" Scariolo
By bringing in an entirely different roster for last November's and this past February's games to the one that competed at EuroBasket 2017, Spain have added depth to their roster. A coach can never have too many players.
Pauli shone for Spain in the November window
The bottom line has been that players on the outside looking in and even on the fringe of national team selection have gotten a chance in the Qualifiers, and proven their worth.
"We rewarded players that deserved to play for the national team who didn't have a chance to do it because they were basically right behind absolutely top level world superstars," Scariolo said. "At the same time, we had some outstanding young players that came out of our U20 Championship national team in Greece last year make their beginning with the main team."
There should not be any complaints in Spain, where the national side after four games is undefeated and on course for the World Cup and Scariolo has more players at his disposal.