17 January, 2019
31 March
7 Juan Rafael Coronado (LIB)
Long Read
to read

Libertadores, the guests that left their mark

PONCE (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas) – Libertadores de Querétaro didn’t mind the conditions in which they arrived at Liga de las Américas. Their purpose was to use this opportunity to make an international debut and that this experience serves as a growth experience for the group.

The president of the Mexican franchise, Roberto Alvarado, acknowledges that their outstanding participation in Group D, which took place in Ponce, Puerto Rico, “was something very important because it was a challenging task where we demonstrated that we're capable and we were able to show that to our fans, who are the best in Mexican basketball. We confirmed that Mexico has other teams to offer internationally aside from the traditional ones and we put Querétaro in the basketball map. Participating in an international-level competition helps us strengthen our image and, in the sporting sense, meant a great experience for our young players.”

The history of the Querétaro squad is brief — although they appeared in the Mexican national league in 2009, they only lasted a season. After a long absence they reappeared in 2017, and this is just their third campaign, even though they couldn't get to the playoffs.

For Argentine coach Leandro Ramella, “the year was done for Libertadores and this opportunity came up, and this is the most significant thing to have happened in the team’s history. Although we were able to build the roster along the way, we took on the commitment as a gesture to thank our fans, who followed us throughout the whole Mexican League.”

The team faced several injuries in their squad; Center Lorenzo Mata injured his knee and one of their main foreign players, power forward Gerard Devaugh a shoulder. In a hurry, with visa problems for other players, the team searched for substitutes and decided to take on the mission.

“We came with considerable absences, but decided to show that we can compete, although we acknowledge our rivals’ strengths. We knew that, in order to win, we had to play with few errors. This happened against Leones, surprisingly, in the opening game, and we surprised everyone. We have a team that has a good perimeter, and above all, trustworthy shooters. We used that in our favor and we got a very important win. And in the two following games, we didn’t shine, but we played head-to-head against Capitanes and Guaros; none of them took us out our defeated us by a wide margin. That's why we're content with our third place. It’s more than what we expected,” acknowledges Ramella, who won't be in the season's closing in Mexico due to his commitments as assistant in the Uruguayan national team.

President Alvarado adds that “many people thought that we were going to be ridiculed in Ponce, but that didn't happen. We competed and had the chance to qualify until our last game ended. It was our first international experience and we learned a lot.”

What Libertadores experienced in and out of the court during Liga de las Américas’ Group D seems to encourage them for what's to come. According to Coach Ramella, “this is an economically organized franchise that doesn't make hasty decisions, that invests in what it can and that tries to improve its organization. Surely, they’ll try to build a stronger team for next season, with the objective of qualifying to the Mexican league playoffs.”

For Alvarado, Querétaro’s good performance in Liga de las Américas, that included a valuable triumph against locals Leones de Ponce, will influence their next steps, since “another path has been opened for us. We depend on private sponsorship — the state only provides us the General Arteaga Auditorium —and competing in an international context could motivate companies (to sponsor). We will try to improve our team. This time we arrive at Liga de las Américas as guests. The next time we want it to be because of our own merits. It’s like when someone gives a candy to you and you like it a lot. And then you go out and buy it yourself.”

Alejandro Pérez