In my last entry in this Eurohopes showroom I did wonder if the NCAA would become a serious option for Spanish prospects, maybe not in the same way as in the 90s, but something definitely more usual than during the last decade. Last summer, we heard some Spanish players were strongly considering playing college basketball. There are actually several Spanish kids over there, but everyone of them is enrolled at minor college leagues but one, Marco Porcher (’92), who has actually redshirted at Florida International after transferring from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he enjoyed a backup role during his freshman season out of two years at national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy.
Guard Alex Ramón (’93), twice top scorer at the Spanish u18 Nationals with Baskonia, and a member of the Spanish u17 NT at the Hamburg’10 FIBA World Championships, joined a prep in New England, Wilbraham & Monson (Massachussetts) where he has finished recently his season. It’s been rumored since the beginning of his career in the States that his moving to Colgate is a fact, but we cannot still confirmed that, as there hasn’t been a school press release on that.
Forward Daniel Busto (’92), after a long career within the Real Madrid youth system, and a short hiatus with Fuenlabrada, has played this season for the postgraduate team at The Phelps School in Pennsylvania.
They both have enjoyed the chances their schools have given them of getting college exposure by competing within the national prep circuit. Surprisingly, they haven’t been alone. Tilton Prep (New Hampshire), where Nerlens Noel, the top prospect in the 2012 class, plays, features another Spaniard in its roster. Guard Nacho Ballvé (’93) moved from Barcelona to the United States as an exchange student, and had the luck he found a place where he could play top basketball level and received a quality education. Ballvé has even drawn some interest from minor schools according to a Martí Artigas article for Catalonian newspaper El 9 Esportiu.
6’9’’ Jonás Santana (’93) made it all the way from Gran Canarias to Denver, Colorado, where he’s been a senior center at Legend HS. 11 months ago he took part at the Spanish u18 National Championships and he is now looking for college after graduating from high school.
All in all, these don’t look like big names at all; only Ramón actually went on to represent Spain in a FIBA tournament. But somehow it is a 1st step of what could be a 2nd wave of Spaniard prospects moving to the USA. During the past five years it was hard to see any Spanish player in a prep school, or someone with minutes in an important Spanish u18 club heading there. Times, they are-a changing?
In addition, Coach Rob Orellana runs an internationally acclaimed basketball academy in the Canary Islands. Over 25 years as a college and professional coach, Orellana has been developing players who have even got drafted by NBA franchises, and with his CB Academy has sent during the last 5 years more than 20 prospects from all over Europe to D1 schools, including high majors like Seton Hall, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, North Carolina State or Virginia Tech. Maybe attracted by that success, there have been a few Spanish players joining the program recently. Former Spain u16 NT player Pedro Fariña (’92), a forward previously at Unicaja Málaga youth teams, and 6’9’’ PF/C Daniel Arcau (’92) , a former Estudiantes player, traveled with the Academy to New York and Rhode Island this winter to take part at the
National Prep Invitational and a series of exhibition games. Forward Gerard Colome (’94), joined the Academy last summer from FC Barcelona, and was a starter for CBA in Kaunas, at the Euroleague NJIT. Again not the biggest names but a way to start.
We have actually heard from a few players weighing their US options right now, and these first thoughts could soon turn into a massive trend. It’s only a question of time when we’ll find ourselves surprised by a top prospect announcing he’ll forego the classic Spanish jump from the u18s to the 1st team through a loan or a B team, and that he’ll join an American school.
Spain is virtually always a medal contender at every FIBA youth competition and hey, college and preps coaches and scouts, watch out, there’s a lot of talent out here!
PS: Spain u18 NT will play in a few days at the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim, Germany. Spain is arguably the top favorite for the gold medal.
PS2: Yes, I know there is a Madrid-born walk on at Stetson.
Twitter of the author: @juan_cobos
Photo: FIBA.COM (Alex Ramon, with Spain)