27 July, 2019
04 August
7 Santiago Aldama (ESP)
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Spain's Aldama wants a business career to match his highlight-producing basketball potential

VOLOS (Greece) - All the Spanish club giants would probably love having an 18-year-old 6ft 11in (2.11m) forward who can shoot the ball, but Santi Aldama chose a different career path.

He has been the revelation of Spain's unbeaten run to the Quarter-Finals, first with a 16-point, 14-rebound, 7-block, 6-assist, 3-steal domination against Croatia to end the Group Phase, then followed with a big bang of 19 first-half points against Latvia in the Round of 16.

Aldama finished the game with the same tally, setting his new career-high in points in FIBA youth events, surpassing the 18 points he had against Montenegro in 2017.

"I didn't know that," Aldama said when informed of his new personal best. "I just try to go out there and do what's best for the team. Today I scored the points, tomorrow it will be another player, it's important to have a team attitude. If someone's hot, just pass the ball to him. It's a team effort."

But it wasn't just the numbers that were suggesting that Santi is a gem in the making. Late in the second quarter, he had a play which impressed all of those enjoying the air-conditioned breeze inside Nea Ionia Hall on another brutally hot day in Volos, Greece. Aldama had a self-assist, off the backboard, for a dunk that sent his bench into a frenzy.

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Aldama with the assist for the Aldama dunk 🇪🇸! Wait what 🤔? #FIBAU18Europe

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"I drove to the basket, and I thought I could have shot the ball. But I saw there was a lot of space opening up, so I just threw the lob to myself and dunked the ball. I've already done it a few times, so it's not that new. The rest of the team was really hyped, but that's because we are a good team, we all want the best for each other. They were hyped," Aldama laughed about the play that killed the spirit of Latvia completely.

The dunk was a part of a huge 32-10 second quarter, in which coach Javier Zamora went big. Usman Garuba and Golden Dike were in charge of the four and five positions, while the almost-seven-footer Aldama covered the small forward slot.

"I'm comfortable playing both three and four, small forward and power forward. Today was a game for me to play the small forward spot more, that's what was the best for the team," Santi explained the logic behind the move.

And more explaining soon followed. While his frontcourt buddies are part of Real Madrid, and the rest of his teammates playing for Barcelona, Zaragoza, Malaga, Valencia and Islas Canarias, Aldama had an academic career in mind when deciding about his future. Basketball duties will come in between Business and Management classes at the Loyola University Maryland next season.

"I really think studies are really important. Going to the US is an amazing opportunity to study and play basketball at the same time. In Loyola (University Maryland) they have a great team, we will do big things there, that's why I chose to go there," the younger version of Santiago Aldama explained.



The name sure rings a bell. Because his father, Santiago Aldama, was a genuine seven-footer who played center for Spain at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, and enjoyed a 16-year-long playing career with Zaragoza, Huesca, Valladolid - alongside Oscar Schmidt for a mention - Gran Canaria and other clubs.

"I'm always looking up to him, but I will try and be better than him. We always have that competition between each other. He played the Olympics for Spain, that's also my goal. The bar is set really, really high, but I'll work for it," the son of the basketball family explained.

The first step towards the amazingly high goals Aldama set for himself is being crossed right now in Greece. Spain are through to the Quarter-Finals and looking like the team to beat, powered by Usman Garuba's high-energy plays, Javier Garcia's passing, and a general team-first approach that sees them leading the points-per-game department.

Aldama knows that a 4-0 record is not a guarantee of anything big, one defeat could send Spain far away from the medal hunt in Volos.

"It was a good win for us (against Latvia), but we haven't done anything yet. Let's hope we'll do the same job tomorrow, we keep on working well as a team, play together, share the ball, hopefully get another win."

The pattern is obviously simple. Repeat it seven times, and Aldama gets a valuable piece of silverware to decorate his new dorm room in Baltimore, USA.