01 - 09
July 2017
8 Aleix Font (ESP)
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Font idolizes Spain’s U19 golden generation of Navarro, Reyes, Pau

BARCELONA (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - Spain's only FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup title came in 1999. But one of the expected leaders of this summer's Spanish U19 team still idolizes the players who turned into the country's golden generation.

Aleix Font was 1 year old when Juan Carlos Navarro, Raul Lopez, Felipe Reyes, Berni Rodriguez, Carlos Cabezas and Pau Gasol teamed up to claim the 1999 U19 crown in Portugal - Spain's only appearance in the final of the competition.

"I remember seeing videos and reading about that FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. It was a big triumph," said Font, who was born in 1998. "Not only did this generation of great players win this U19 title in 1999 but they also gave Spain many other titles as they grew up, including the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2006 in Japan, the 2009 and 2015 FIBA EuroBasket championships, and many other great results like silver medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and London Games in 2012."

Spain celebrate the title at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 1999.

That group of players was coined the golden generation and inspired players from the next generations of Spanish players - including Font.

"It all started in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup which led to the best basketball era of Spanish basketball," Font added.

Spain missed the subsequent U19 spectacle in 2003 but have qualified now for five of the last six tournaments, including a fifth-placed finish at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 to qualify for this summer's event in Cairo. The Spanish however have not reached the U19 Semi-Finals since winning the 1999 crown, losing in the Quarter-Finals in 2007, 2013 and 2015.

"There are only words of worship because so many have failed since then and it proves that what they achieved was really hard and of great merit," Font said.

The Barcelona native hopes to snap that streak of failure for Spanish basketball this summer with the Iberians drawn into Group C with Canada, Japan and Mali.

"There are only words of worship because so many have failed since (Spain won the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in 1999) and it proves that what they achieved was really hard and of great merit."Aleix FontAleix Font

And Font cannot wait to play in Cairo at his first global tournament.

"I am really excited. It's crazy to be able to play in a tournament with such a high level and where so many good players are fighting for the same prize," Font said. "It's a true test and a challenge to compete against basketball teams from all around the world."

Font was Spain's leading scorer at the U18 continental championship in December with 16.3 points to go with 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals.

Font is not yet guaranteed a spot on Spain's roster for Cairo, especially since the head coach has not been named. But the 6ft 4in 1.93m forward will do whatever he is called upon to do.

"I'm willing to play the role that the coach decides - anything necessary to benefit the team and get the most out of each player," said Font, who last summer played at the FIBA 3x3 U18 Basketball World Cup 2016.

He also mentioned that it is very important that Spain are back at the global stage.

"In Spain we have a huge basketball culture and a lot of people dedicate a lot of time to it in order to be amongst the best countries in Europe and the world. It's a recognition for the good work that's being done in the federation and in the whole country itself," he said.

Spain had a major challenge in booking their U19 ticket as they went to Samsun with a number of top players unavailable to the squad - including Eric Vila among others.

"It shows that we are true competitors and even in situations where adversities seem too much to bear we are able to win," Font said. "It emphasizes the competitiveness, compromise and good team chemistry."

Those are definitely some of the traits that Spain will need this summer in order to have success in Cairo - and come close to another golden generation team.