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Wizards' Jaime Echenique becomes first Colombian to play in the NBA
MIAMI (United States) - Jaime Echenique made history on December 30, 2021 as the first Colombian player to play an official NBA game.
The Barranquilla native participated in the Washington Wizards’ 110-93 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers and thus fulfilled his greatest desire since he picked up a basketball.
"It's worth dreaming," said the 2.11m tall player after his debut in the world’s best league.
Echenique has overcome many challenges through his career. Since he graduated from Wichita State University in 2020, he had to deal with adverse situations that threatened his dream, such as the pandemic and a serious knee injury during his Spanish basketball stint.
Last October he made a great impression in the NBA’s Summer League, and landed a spot in the Wizards' G-League affiliate. Almost three months later, he was finally able to fulfill his dream, and that of a nation, by signing a 10-day contract with the Wizards.
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“I have persevered a lot to be where I am. It has been many hours of hard work in the gym, I am trying to enjoy this to the fullest,” Echenique commented at a press conference.
He knows what this feat means for Colombia, but he expressed that he always tried not to think too much about it.
“I didn't want to put that pressure on myself because it was feeding something that doesn't suit me. I tried to stay focused on myself, just thinking about the things that I can control. I am a person who only thinks about the day to day and that is what I focus on. That has helped me to be where I am. I do not think beyond. I leave everything in the hands of God.”
What he did make clear is that he feels very grateful for all the support he received from his home country
“I know all the joy that was generated and I appreciate all that you have been supporting me. This is a big step. I hope this serves to open the doors to those who come further back and so that basketball in Colombia continues to grow ”.
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Making the most out of the experience
With his debut goal accomplished, now Echenique is working to become a player who can fit into the NBA in the long run. At 24 years old, he believes that players like him must have the ability to adapt and impact the game’s dizzying pace.
“I think that every day I have been improving. That's what the NBA is all about, growing every day. The Wizards coaches have been watching me on a daily basis, not just now, but during the G-League as well. We have been focused more on details such as the location, the pace, and knowing what the team figures like. I have felt great support from the coaching staff. I have also learned a lot from my colleagues to observe situations, they have all had a good disposition to teach,” he shared.
The Colombian said he has a fairly close relationship with the team's head coach, Wes Unseld Jr., who is also making his debut this season.
“He is a very influential person, very intelligent at the game. I have talked a lot with him, he is very detailed with everything I do. I have been fortunate to have that. I always take his advice.”