Veteran Parra knows U16 champs Spain will be hunted in Latvia
MADRID (FIBA U18 European Championship 2018) - Spain's last title at the FIBA U18 European Championship came in 2011 but Joel Parra knows the Spanish will be one of most hunted teams in the 2018 edition in Latvia.
Parra was named to the All-Star Five as Spain captured the title at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 - won with the same 2000-born generation that will be playing in this summer's U18 tournament.
"The team wants to win this tournament as well and we are going to go for it," Parra said. "All the teams that play against Spain always want to win, and we know it. We have to keep that in mind."
Joel Parra (bottom row, second from right) celebrates winning the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 with his Spanish teammates.
The forward plans on being a leader for Joaquin Prado's team, which will start their quest for their fourth U18 crown in Group C with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland and Ukraine. That will come automatically, given that he is playing his third U18 tournament following 2016 and 2017, when he averaged 0.8 points and 1.8 rebounds; then 10.4 points and 2.4 rebounds, respectively.
"This will be like both other times. I have played each tournament with the same enthusiasm," said Parra, who turned 18 in April. "A European Championship is very difficult to play because all the teams can give you problems and you cannot relax at any moment."
The Barcelona native has an impressive wealth of experience to call upon, including the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016, FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2016, FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 and 2017, as well as the just-completed FIBA U20 European Championship 2018.
Badalona's Joel Parra ('00) had his best game of #FIBAU20Europe in Spain's quarterfinal loss. 24 points (5/10 2FG, 3/4 3FG, 5/5 FT), 15 rebs (6 off.), 2 ast, 2 TO in 33:19.— Austin Green (@LosCrossovers) July 20, 2018
6'7 lefty who can hit 3s and score in the paint. Good feel for the game, playing vs. guys 1-2 years older pic.twitter.com/jxP8rCWzER
"This championship has taught me many things. But more than anything that you have to play hard, trust the team and that no game is easy," said Parra of the U20 tournament, where he contributed 7.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists - despite being younger than most of his peers in the seventh-placed Spanish side.
The absolute minimum goal for Spain in Latvia is to finish in the top five to qualify for the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 - which would be Spain's fourth consecutive appearance and sixth in seven editions.
Joel Parra made his international debut at the FIBA U17 World Cup 2016.
"For me it would be an honor to play at another World Cup and to see the best teams in the world," said Parra, who played a year younger at the U17 World Cup in 2016 and averaged 9.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists. "It is a very important event for the federation and for us, too. Not everyone can play a U19 World Cup. But we have to concentrate on the Riga tournament."
But the real goal is the top of the podium.
"I want to try to win a gold again."
Parra experienced winning a championship in 2016 at the U16 level. But other than that, things have not gone as well in big games for the Spanish teams on which he has played.
Spain and Joel Parra (left) come up just short at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017, losing in the Final to Serbia.
In the U17 World Cup, as hosts, they lost to Turkey in the Semi-Finals and then to Lithuania in the Third-Place Game to go empty-handed. In the 2016 U18 tournament, the Spanish lost to Germany in the Quarter-Finals en route to a fifth-placed finish. Last summer, Spain lost to Serbia in the U18 Final to finish second.
It is results like that, that only make Spain more determined, and make that target on their backs even bigger.