15 - 23
July 2017
10 Santiago Yusta (ESP)
to read

Yusta's scoring punch fuels Spain

CRETE (FIBA U20 European Championship 2017) - Once again, Spain have qualified for the Semi-Finals of the FIBA U20 European Championship. On Day 5, Spain overcame Germany 69-61 to make their 11th consecutive Semi-Final. They have medaled without fail since 2007 and are favorites to repeat as champions in Crete.

Spanish basketball has been a powerhouse in the past decade with the senior team having claimed medals in the past three Olympics Games. At the heart of their success has been a selfless approach, which has been showcased by the U20 team in Crete.

An unbeaten Spain look worthy of their favoritism status but have endured some tough moments along the way including a one-point victory in the Group Phase against Serbia and a grinding encounter against a physical Germany in the Quarter-Final.

However, showcasing the hallmarks of a great team, Spain have found ways to win even when under serious pressure. The backbone of their success - teamwork and passing - have come to the fore in clutch moments reinforcing Spain's basketball pedigree.

Still, they have needed some heroic individual deeds to remain unbeaten and small forward Santiago Yusta has provided the scoring punch. The 20-year-old was one of the tournament's best players in the Group Phase highlighted by a 26-point game-winning performance against Serbia.

Yusta also led Spain with 14 points and 8 rebounds against Germany to further his credentials as a player who thrives under pressure. Not particularly explosive, the 6ft 6in (1.98m) swingman relies on his smarts and seemingly is always in the right position. Yusta has solid playmaking skills and an ability to finish at the rim through precise footwork and a relentless attitude.

Most impressively, Yusta has been red-hot from beyond the arc shooting 13-of-24 in the tournament to take his game to new height. Previously, Yusta had been somewhat of a streaky shooter but if he can continue to be more of a consistent threat from deep then the sky is the limit.

Yusta says he has worked hard on his shooting. "I work really hard at training with the coaches on my shooting," he says. "It's about confidence. I feel confident now, so that's why I am hitting shots."

Ever unassuming, Yusta credits his teammates for the success. "It's about my teammates, they have done a good job getting me in good positions," he says. "The most important thing is winning every game, so that is the focus."

Yusta says Spain's phenomenal success over the years can be attributed to an inclusive culture. "We love passing and helping out teammates," he says. "Spanish teams always play and work together. We have players who can do everything."

If he keeps rapidly improving, higher honors could be ahead for the Real Madrid player but right now Yusta is focusing on the task ahead. In a blockbuster Semi-Final on Day 6, Spain enters the cauldron against hosts Greece fueled by their boisterous fans.

Yusta believes Spain will not feel any extra pressure of being expected to medal. "It is good, we enjoy that challenge," he says. "People say we are one of the favorites but we don't worry about that. If we play how we should then the rest will take care of business.

"We are really focused on the Semi-Final," he added. "We will play a really good team, there will be a lot of people cheering for them. We need to continue playing with confidence."