Switzerland's long drought about to end: Capela is here to make history
FRIBOURG (Switzerland) - Switzerland's overall stats in the First Round of FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Pre-Qualifiers were, to borrow a quote from HBO's recent surprise hit, 'not great, not terrible'.
Switzerland were near the top in all sections, but emphasis is on 'near'. In their four games Gianluca Barilari's team averaged 79.8 points per game and had decent 40.8 rebounds in average, all of that while shooting 42 percent from the field. The Swiss need to upgrade those numbers to get to the next level, but how?
How about with adding one of the best big guys from NBA? That could help, right?
Good thing Switzerland have already one such player making buckets and crashing boards overseas; adding Houston Rocket's big man Clint Capela to the roster should boost their ceiling.
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Averaging 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, with magnificent 64.8 from the field, Capela was one of the centerpieces in a Rockets team that fell just short of going to another NBA Western Conference Finals. But having a 'longer' summer vacation than usual, Capela decided to help his country of birth once again. Five years ago he played for Switzerland at the EuroBasket 2015 Qualifiers and averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds. But back then he was just very promising prospect. Now Capela is coming to help his national team as a formed star.
"I feel great and very excited. It has been a long time and I am very happy to play for the National Team again, and knowing that we are going to play some games at home is so good. It's going to be so great, I am very excited about it," said Capela who joined the Swiss team just recently.
"WE WANT TO MAKE HISTORY AND QUALIFY SWITZERLAND FOR THE NEXT EUROBASKET; WE KNOW WE CAN DO IT AND THAT IS ALL THAT WE WANT."
Switzerland began their preparation on July 10, but Capela joined the team in the last week of preparation and after few practices played for them 20 minutes in a friendly game against Ivory Coast (68-69). It was enough for the 6ft 10in (2.08m) big guy from Geneva to show glimpses of class that Switzerland should use against Portugal and Iceland.
"I want to bring my energy and my experience, but I also want to bring my winning spirit, and show the way to win and play with a lot of energy. I want to help Switzerland basketball, and I want to win with my country. That's why I am here for, that’s what I work for."
In Capela's mind he's eager to be a mentor for the young players dying to show to European basketball how Switzerland can compete with everyone.
Capela has high hopes for Switzerland on the road to FIBA EuroBasket 2021
"Everyone is working hard to help the national team, so that is very important. We are going to have very important games and we all expect everyone to give his best during this qualifying campaign. Friendly games are one thing, but competitive ones are another kind. You have to put it all on the court and to play at your best level. We all expect to do so in this round of qualifiers."
Group H is probably the toughest group in all Pre-Qualifiers. Portugal and Iceland have something that Swiss lack – they played on the big scene in recent years, while Switzerland still trying to make their first FIBA EuroBasket in the modern era.
"Going to EuroBasket is a goal for us; it would be a dream come true. We have the talent and the potential to do so and we know that we can do it. We want to make history and qualify Switzerland for the next EuroBasket; we know we can do it and that is all that we want. I think that we have the potential to go to the next round and fight for a spot for EuroBasket 2021," Capela stressed.
"I THINK ABOUT HELPING THE TEAM ON BOTH ENDS OF THE COURT AND MY ONLY GOAL IS TO HELP SWITZERLAND WIN EACH GAME. WE KNOW WE CAN DO SO, AND WE HAVE A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO GET THE NATIONAL TEAM TO THE NEXT ROUND."
"I don't know that much about Iceland and Portugal, but I am also more focus on my team. I know that we can play well, and that we have a chance to make it to the next round. We are going to play with a lot of energy and we are very motivated."
Facing Portugal in Fribourg on Saturday will be Capela's first task, but he's well prepared to put his county's dreams on his strong shoulders.
"I think about helping the team on both ends of the court and my only goal is to help Switzerland win each game. We know we can do so, and we have a great opportunity to get the national team to the next round. We want to make the most of this opportunity, and we are going to play each game as if it were a final. We have a goal in mind, it is to qualify for the next round”.
Failure is not an option for Clint Capela, because he's already succeeded in almost everything. A young boy of African immigrants made it to the biggest stage, becoming the basketball ambassador of the country that isn't known for basketball. Until now.
"I take a lot of pride in that role, and every time I come back home, it helps people hear and look more into basketball. I know a lot of young kids look at me as an example, and if I can help basketball grow in my country, that is great!"