Being apart of an Olympic event is an experience that all athletes have on their bucket list.
The experience starts with a daunting task, as there is a rigorous tryout process. While many enjoy watching the players compete in the event, few know exactly what it takes to be apart of a national team. Their exciting journey to greatness should not be hidden, but discussed and embraced!
TheDribbleDrop and NJHoopRecruit linked with Alejandro Vasquez to discuss his Puerto Rico National Team journey. Vasquez is also member an elite AAU program named The New York Lightning and holds numerous division one offers. Last year, he played for The Patrick School in New Jersey. - As told to Christian Mordi @thedribbledrop on Instagram and Twitter.
Our tryouts and practices were based in Puerto Rico. The first couple of days were very intense and hot. With that being said, I enjoyed myself during the early trial process. It was great getting to know the guys early on. It was a bit of an adjustment as I don’t speak Spanish that well, but my teammates and the staff helped me through the process. I felt as if I got better at speaking Spanish by the end of the event.
The coaches were cool. The style of play was very different. In New York, we use a lot of ball screens and we look to create early in the shot clock. With the national team, we played a more layered style of basketball. Lots of hard cuts and ball movements. We focused on getting the best shot every time down. Everyone bought in and as a result the style of play and it actually was a lot of fun.
Our first big game was against the Dominican Republic. Some of their key players were Lester Quinones and Alanzo Frink. It was a great game. Offensively, I took over in the second half. We knew it was a must-win game. The pace was great also. I ended up with 17 points and we came out with the win.
The next game was against the U.S.A. They were a tough matchup. They had no drop off in regards to talent when they went to their bench. Our style of play contrasted with theirs a lot. They picked us up 94 feet and applied pressure the entire time. It was very hard to get into our sets and get a good look with so little time left on the clock.
Our next game was against Chile in the quarterfinals. We ate breakfast early and had a film session. I was locked in and was focused to find an edge via film study. The game started and I caught fire. I ended up with 23 points and we walked away with the win.
In the semi-finals we faced Canada. The level of focus and pressure was clear on both sides. Canada had a great turnout for this game. I got off to a fairly slow start on the scoring side of things, but I locked in on making good passes and defense. I ended up picking it up offensively but they had built a lot of momentum at that point. I ended up with 19 points, 6 rebs and 7 assists in the loss.
I learned a lot from this event. At first, I was very hesitant in regards to playing in the event, but my dad sat me down and talked to me about the pros of playing. We talked about the people back at home. People who have suffered from the hurricane, who take events like this very seriously. Games like this take their minds off of what they may be dealing with at that time that can be overwhelming. Once I got into it, I knew I made the right choice. My family was extremely happy at the games. I did this for the people back at Puetro Rico. It was truly an honor.
Til next time,