Even in World Cup summer, Spain's next generation high on the list for Scariolo
VOLOS (Greece) - It has been the summer of Spain so far in FIBA youth events, with the U20 team reaching the Final in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the U18 doing the same in Greece at the FIBA U18 European Championship.
The most important duties for Spain are yet to come, with Sergio Scariolo and the senior national team heading into the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in the role of favorites to medal in China. But this is all connected for Scariolo.
So much so, that he decided to spend the two days off from the training camp by traveling across Europe to see what the next generation is doing.
"We started the training camp on Monday and we have two days off. I had a crazy trip, I slept for two hours, then went to Munich, then Munich to Thessaloniki, and now hopefully I'll see a couple of good games," Scariolo told FIBA.basketball in Volos after arriving from Pamplona, where Spain defeated Lithuania in the first preparation game for the World Cup.
"THIS YEAR HAS BEEN A GOOD YEAR FOR US BUT THE RESULTS AREN'T OUR MAIN CONCERN. OUR MAIN CONCERN IS TO DEVELOP PLAYERS AND TRY TO GET THEM READY FOR THE FIRST TEAM."
The national team coach can file this as an official business trip, since he is also the technical coordinator for Spanish youth teams and is on top of things from the youngest age groups all the way up to the Hernangomezes, Gasol, Rubio and others at the senior level.
"I love to see that the whole system, the whole group of our teams is working along the same lines, from the academy or U12 and U13 teams all the way to the first team. We are progressive throughout the scene. Our philosophy, entering the youth teams and every category upwards, was that the base of the system is the same," Scariolo explained.
Spain placed second at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel
It seems to be working, because Spain are two-of-two with medals in events this summer. However, Scariolo and his coworkers aren't the least bit fooled by the good results. They have a deeper goal with the youth teams.
"This year has been a good year so far, but the results aren't our main concern. Our main concern is to develop players and try to get them ready for the first team," the Toronto Raptors assistant coach and NBA champion said.
But with all the professionalism showed, Scariolo also had a personal reason to get to Volos this summer. His son Alessandro is a part of the Spanish U18 team, playing 20 minutes per game for coach Javier Zamora, doing all the little things that aren't usually shown in the boxscore.
But if you have a player whose +/- per game is +8.8 in just 20 minutes of work, you enjoy having him on the floor anytime.
"These kids, I can tell you from a father's standpoint, these kids made a lot of sacrifices to get here. They study, they practice three hours per day, they play with the national team, so it's nice to see now that they are rewarded, making it at this level and having a chance to fight for a medal," a proud father added.
Fighting for a medal is something that Spanish coaches are used to by now. But for the first time since 1999, Spain will show up at a big event without having either Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro or Sergio Rodriguez. Nikola Mirotic and Serge Ibaka are also out.
"We are in a different challenge, a new one, with many guys who never played or never had an important role with the national team, but we are excited about the challenge," Scariolo said. "Most of the guys who played the (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) windows are among the 16 in this group, so the training camp is going well. We just started, we cannot say much, but we have good vibes about the togetherness, the desire to compete together, no selfishness and that's what we ask of them. This is the basement to build a fort."
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Working for the Raptors gave Scariolo a unique chance to see the NBA world from the inside. That is also why he is not fooled by a lot of shifts and changes in Team USA, and knows that they will still be the top favorites, despite the fact that teams like Spain, France, Serbia, Australia, Canada and other will be stronger than ever.
"Knowing the NBA work from inside, having three important players out for any other teams is way more important than (these absences) for the US team. There is just a lot of talent, a lot of great players. People in Europe sometimes don't really realize how deep is the NBA world, in terms of great players, not only the first five or six. I think it's always better to focus on who is playing than who is not," Scariolo finished, before returning to his spot in the second row of Nea Ionia Hall and enjoying the FIBA U18 European Championship 2019 game with the rest of the Spanish parents.
A big trip back to Spain awaits. It will most definitely be an easier one knowing he did not miss a chance to support his son on his way to the podium. Alessandro will most definitely return the favor soon, and be there for his father.
Possibly already in China, why not?