Americas Qualifiers heroes: These are the players who played every game
MIAMI (United States) – When your country calls on you, you must be available. And when it was time to represent their flag's colors in the quest for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, a total of 20 players always showed up for their national team – taking part in all 12 games of the Americas Qualifiers.
Of those 20 players, who were present during the six qualifying windows that were held between November 2021 and February 2023, five are from Mexico and Venezuela (the countries that had the most) while Canada and the Dominican Republic had two each. Brazil and Puerto Rico had one.
These are the heroes who did not miss any games for the countries that qualified for the World Cup:
Gabriel Girón, Paul Stoll, Orlando Méndez, Fabián Jaimes, Israel Gutiérrez
The Mexican squad will return do the World Cup after missing the tournament in 2019. That feat happened in great part thanks to head coach Omar Quintero having most of the team's nucleus for every game. Girón, Stoll, Méndez and Gutiérrez played in the 2014 World Cup and were again crucial in qualifying in 2023.
Stoll was 4th in assists during the Qualifiers with 5.1 per game, while Girón led the team in points with 14.8. Méndez and Jaimes were key role players who scored 9.2 and 9.1 points respectively, and Gutiérrez (who averaged 12.1 minutes per game) was important backing up Daniel Amigo and Joshua Ibarra, the team's top options inside.
Néstor Colmenares, Miguel Ruiz, David Cubillán, Jhornan Zamora, Windi Graterol
Venezuela also relied on their cohesion to make it to the World Cup. The team had pretty much the same roster that qualified to the 2019 WC, including Argentinian head coach Fernando Duró. Colmenares, Ruiz and Graterol were crucial on the boards for a squad that averaged 39.2 rebounds per game (the tournament's 6thbest mark), while Zamora made 2.2 three-pointers per game and Cubillán added 1.8.
Thomas Scrubb, Phil Scrubb
The brother duo was like Batman and Robin for the North Americans, who only lost one of their 12 games. They were always available, and not even the presence of some NBA stars like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kelly Olynyk, Nickeil Alexander-Walker or Dwight Powell allowed their head coach to leave them out of the roster. They are the soul of the team and have been during many years.
Phil, from the point guard position, averaged 7.1 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds. Thomas, on the wing, added 8.4 points, 4.4 boards and 2.8 assists.
Andrés Feliz, Eloy Vargas
The point guard and the big man were locks at the most important positions. Feliz was very effective from long distance, shooting an impressive 57 percent from beyond the arc (19/33). In their final 3 games (Dominican Republic won their last 4 straight) he scored in double digits every time, including an 11-point, 4-assist, 4-rebound performance in the historic win against Argentina on the road. Meanwhile, Vargas always did the dirty work: set screens, alter shots and clean up the trash. The 2.10m big man averaged 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Georginho De Paula
Without the recognition of other stellar national team players, De Paula was a significant element of Gustavo Conti's plan. With versatility as his calling card, thanks to an innate ability to score, pass, rebound and play good defense, De Paula became indispensable for Brazil. In their first win against United States, which allowed them to stop a 3-game losing streak, De Paula produced 18 points and 5 rebounds.
The 29-year-old forward was a true constant for head coach Nelson Colón, not only due to playing every game, but also for his steady production throughout the Qualifiers. Usually starting at the power forward position, Ortiz contributed both on the perimeter and closer to the basket, averaging 9.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. In their road win against Brazil, where Puerto Rico won on a Tremont Waters buzzer-beater and practically secured their spot in the World Cup, it was Ortiz who kept the team afloat throughout the night with his 21 points.
The complete list of heroes:
Brazil: Georginho De Paula
Canada: Thomas Scrubb, Phil Scrubb
Dominican Republic: Andrés Feliz, Eloy Vargas
Mexico: Gabriel Girón, Paul Stoll, Orlando Méndez, Fabián Jaimes, Israel Gutiérrez
Panama: Trevor Gaskins, Josimar Ayarza
Puerto Rico: Chris Ortíz
Uruguay: Esteban Batista, Joaquín Rodríguez
Venezuela: Néstor Colmenares, Miguel Ruiz, David Cubillán, Jhornan Zamora, Windi Graterol
Players appearing in every game but one:
Brazil: Lucas Mariano
Colombia: Michaell Jackson
Mexico: Yahir Bonilla
Puerto Rico: Ismael Romero
Uruguay: Kiril Wachsmann
Venezuela: Garly Sojo