5 Paola Ferrari (PAR)
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When effort leads to success: Paola Ferrari's example for Paraguayan basketball

ASUNCIÓN (Paraguay) – Women's basketball in Paraguay grows year after year thanks to the daily work done by the Paraguayan Basketball Confederation (CPB, for its Spanish acronym) and its commitment to develop formative categories in order to strengthen the national teams. An example of this is Paola Ferrari, who plays in the national team since she was 12 and today, at the age of 33, joins her teammates for a new challenge – the FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2019.

The CPB, presided by Santiago Ochipinti, experienced in August one of the most important moments of the year with the senior national women's team and their first appearance in the Pan American Games, held in Lima, Peru. They arrived seventh, but the most significant thing was the acknowledgment of the growth of female basketball in this South American nation. The team’s captain was Ferrari, who was chosen among the five with the greatest efficiency in the entire tournament and was selected for the All-Star Five of the Games’ women's basketball – a great honor for the Paraguayan nation. Joining her in this selection were Jazmon Gwathmey and Jennifer O’Neill, from Puerto Rico; Beatrice Mompremier, from the United States; and Clarizza Dos Santos, of champion team Brazil.

Ferrari is one of the star players of Paraguayan basketball. She’s outstanding in the national team and plays professional basketball in Spain since she was 15. She recently moved on to French basketball to continue her professional career in Ligue 1 with Rezé Basket in the city of Nantes, where she was appointed as the team's captain.

“She’s an outstanding person. She’s truly a teammate in all her squads and she’s always a leader and a guide for the rest of her colleagues. I coached her in several South American Championships from minor to major categories, and in a great number of her international appearances, I was her coach too. We've stepped on podiums and won medals (together). She has a sense of solidarity and she's a great scorer in the court. With her intelligence and talent, she could continue playing a couple of more years. She’ll leave a legacy for kids in Paraguay. She's an example for all female players and even for all male players. She triumphed in Europe, where she was a champion, and they have a great concept of her over there. She’s given a lot to the Paraguayan national team and we’ll miss her when she leaves,” said President Santiago Ochipinti to FIBA.basketball.

Last month’s Pan American Games were a great test for Paraguayan basketball. “It was a dream come true for us. This was the first time Paraguay was participating in an event like this. It was incredible to play, live the experience and, above all, win a game that for us was very significant. Being chosen a part of the All-Star Five was thanks to all my teammates. I know they trust me and sensing that on the court makes you play at a great level. That's why they gave me this prize. I'm happy because behind this there’s a lot of work and effort,” said Paola Ferrari to FIBA.basketball.

Now back in Paraguayan territory, the player is preparing and concentrating with her teammates to experience a new tournament with the national team, one of the most important in the continent – the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2019 – which will take place at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from September 21 to 29 this year.

“I'm proud to be the captain of this team, to lead and help Paraguay to be in the highest place in basketball. That’ll be my duty until I retire. I try to take my country's name to the highest place in each tournament and that we enjoy doing so. I think we're doing that, and we’ll try to do our best in every tournament,” said Ferrari, who had her first experience with the national team in 1999, in the U16 South American Championship in Peru. She was only 14 years old and was the tournament's greatest scorer.

“Women's basketball is growing. Physical aspects play a pivotal role and these players put in all their efforts. I led the women's teams for more than 20 years. I started in the U14 with the girls that played in the Pan American Games in Lima. I know we need to keep working, but we're going in the right path,” added Ochipinti.

Ferrari is one of the examples of this Federation. She started to play basketball when she was seven years old at Deportivo Internacional (INTER), where she accompanied her two older brothers, Julio and Renzo. There she prepared as a player until she was 16 and played for more than 5 teams in Paraguay. She participated in several South American Championships, Pan American Games, Olympic Qualifiers, and got several distinctions in several of them. One of the most important being in the FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2017, where she was elected to the All-Star Five.

2018 was one of the best years for the small forward who, aside from being the best scorer and greatest three-point scorer in the South American Championship in Tunja, Colombia, arrived fourth and qualified to the FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2019, and a bronze medal in the Odesur Games in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

One of the most important experiences in Ferrari’s sports career was the opportunity to move to Spanish basketball in 2005. There, at 19 years of age, she started to play at Liga 2’s Vidrogal, in Santiago de Compostela. For 15 years she played in Spanish basketball, in different teams and cities, raking in titles and personal achievements, and acquired the fundamental tools to shine in her own national team.

In 2013 she had another opportunity in Brazilian basketball, with São Paulo's Unimed Americana. She also played in Ecuador's League in four different years (2004, 2011-2012 and 2014) and then went back to Spain, where she continued to play in the Liga 1. There she received awards to the most assists and points, all while performing superbly in the national team and being in 2013 the first Paraguayan player called for the WNBA Training Camp with the Los Angeles Sparks, one of her biggest dreams.

She achieved more than she imagined both in her country and in international basketball. She experienced training camps in the United States and Spain, and this motivated her to organize her own training camp to pass down all her experience, achievements and the results of her fourteen-year career. For six years now, she’s been organizing the Campus PF5 with her brother, Renzo, where for four days, children between the ages of 5 and 17 receive her lessons in an effort to grow basketball in this country and bring more children to practice the sport. “This all began as a dream. I wanted to contribute my experience and give children and the youth something to enjoy and for them to have fun playing basketball. Help them build the right path toward success,” she added.

Paraguayan basketball's youth wants to follow in Ferrari's footsteps and that's great news for the CPB, considering that their objective for 2020 is to host one of the South American Championships.

“The expectation for next year is to try to organize one or two South American tournaments. We want to bring the senior women's South American Championship, and that's almost a given. We're analyzing our budget. We would like to bring the female U15 or the male U19, but we want to try to host two South American Championships in our country,” assured Ochipinti to FIBA.basketball.

“Paraguayan women's basketball grew a lot in the national teams’ level. The award given by FIBA to us as the third country with the greatest growth in the past two years makes us proud because we know that we're fighting to be in the best place possible. I believe that with hard work and support we can achieve great things,” said the forward, who also added: “Younger girls in Paraguay have somewhere to look up to and can dream of bigger things. We've already played in the Pan American Games and we're now going to the AmeriCup, so they must be the future of our national team.”