17 January, 2019
31 March
40 Angel Vassallo Colon (PUR)
to read

Evenness and uncertainty in Group D

PONCE (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas) — The last spots for the Semi-Finals Phase of the DIRECTV Liga de las Américas 2019 will be defined this weekend in Ponce, Puerto Rico, when Group D is disputed at Juan “Pachín” Vicéns Auditorium.

They will battle hosts Leones de Ponce, who are the current runners-up of the Puerto Rico National Superior Basketball League (BSN, for its Spanish acronym). Capitanes de Arecibo are the Boricua monarchs. Guaros de Lara, Venezuelan LPB champions and twice Liga de las Américas title holders (2016-2017), and Libertadores de Querétaro (Mexico), a quintet that raised their hand to participate after the desertion of Estudiantes de Panamá.

The two best teams in this key will move on to the Semi-Finals and join Paulistano (Brasil) and Atenas de Córdoba (Argentina), of Group A; Franca (Brazil), Capitanes de Ciudad de México (Mexico), of Grup B; and San Lorenzo de Almagro (Argentina) and CD Las Ánimas de Valdivia (Chile), for Group C.

A difficult prediction

In this competition, Group D is covered by a larger veil of uncertainty. Leones, Capitanos and Guaros share the fact that their leagues ended mid-2018 and they haven't had any continuity in their rhythm. They're only counting on what they've been doing to prepare since the beginning of January. Meanwhile, Libertadores, who are seemingly less strong and experienced, are the only ones that are currently active in their league and have played more than 30 games.

Ponce, who were third in this event last year, are favored by the fact that they’ll be playing in their kingdom joined by figures such as Carlos Arroyo and Ángel Daniel Vasallo, two veteran scorers that are spearheads of the island’s basketball.

Joining them will be Dominican player Víctor Liz, as well as Nick Minnerath, Dane Johnson, Cliff Durán, Alvin Cruz, Weyinmi Rose, Derek Reese, and others.

The offensive capability is the main attribute of this squad. However, Coach Wilhelmus Caanen issued a warning in Puerto Rican newssource Primera Hora: “We can't fall in love with the offense, which we do have, but collective defensive work, that we help in the defense, is what's necessary.”

“Our preparing has gone very well. I think the guys have benefited from it. It's given them the opportunity to get to know each other,” added the coach about the work they've been doing recently.

Meanwhile, Arecibo, reigning champions of the BSN, and who are participating in their twelfth Liga de las Américas, will try to portray their local league success in the international stage.

For this, Coach “Pachy” Cruz counts on a squad that's armored in all fronts, with reinforcements Andre Emmett, Victor Rudd, Ronald Ramón, Rafael “Chamo” Pérez, Elijah Holman, as well as natives Johwen Villegas, Owen Pérez y Jezreel de Jesús.

Guaros prepared for six weeks for this event, and their biggest challenge has been to integrate the foreign players, since the local side is practically the lineup of the national Venezuelan team, including Argentine coach Fernando Duró.

Heissler Guillent, Néstor Colmenares, Luis Bethelmy, Gregory and José Vargas will count on the support of Aaron Harper, Justin Williams, Rodney Green, Ariel Eslava and Georgio Milligan to try to reach the first objective — to advance to the next round.

“These were very heavy training sessions, focused on the physical (aspects) with the new trainer (Cristian Lambrech). These were very intense tasks because we were lacking time on the court, and the foreigners were integrating. We did develop what we set out to do, we’ll have moments of satisfaction in the tournament. The key is in maturity, sustaining an intense game no matter who the rivals are, staying focused, playing game by game,” said Power Forward Colmenares to his team’s press department.

And last, but not least, Libertadores only had a week to get ready for the event after the Panamanian club's exit. The management signed Center Andrew Feely and Venezuelan Juan Coronado to reinforce the roster that already had Anthony Young, Brandon Davis Joseph Hutchingson, César Guerrero and Juan Bañuelos in their ranks.

Argentine coach Leandro Ramella expects his team to show a performance that’s more constant to what they've portrayed until now in the Mexican league, where they hold a 12-24 record, with five defeats in their last eight duels.

“I think that this participation in Liga de las Américas is a prize to our franchise, who are very organized and try to improve and advance year after year to trully be one of the protagonists. We're going with great expectations. We know that the teams that are participating in this group are of a very high level. But, no matter how aware we are of that, we’ll try to do things the best way possible and try to compete in the greatest levell,” said Coach Ramella to news outlet Notimex.