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Ecuador Coach John Escalante Makes A Point Ecuador Coach John Escalante Makes A Point

FIBA

Ecuador: Into the Fire

Photo: Paul Hendren

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St. Catherine’s, Canada –  Deena Spivak couldn’t hide her own butterflies.  “ They are so nervous,” was her assessment during Ecuador’s shoot around before their encounter with the well- oiled hosts from Canada.  The subject of her observation were twelve young men from Ecuador.  They had arrived on Canadian soil to defend their national pride during a regional tournament in which eight teams converged in St. Catharines.  Only four would garnish a place in the upcoming U19 World Championships next year. Unofficially, Spivak was the South Americans’ den mother throughout the tournament – always an ear shot away to assist.   Officially she was the team’s attaché – a volunteer assignment given to her by Canada Basketball. Internalizing the pressures of the young players she was asked to oversee, during a week that hosted the region’s elite basketball countries, seemed to be a workplace hazard.  “How could I not be nervous,” was Spivak’s retort to the writer’s query. “They are all great kids.”

Ecuador qualified for the FIBA Americas tournament after capturing third place in South America behind Continental powers Argentina and the fast climbing Chileans.  The FIBA U18 Americas Championship was the country’s first foray into a FIBA mainstream international basketball event since participating in the 1950 World Championships hosted in Argentina.  Basketball has been alive in Ecuador but always shaded away by the national obsession and tribalism of soccer.  During times of economic prosperity the Liga Ecuatoriana de Balancesto, Ecuador’s top professional league, was a common stopover for many talented American players and a place to garnish a reasonable pay cheque for Venezuelans, Columbians, Peruvians and Chileans. Recently, the country’s economic struggles have resulted in a brain drain of local talent while many other imported mercenaries are electing to take their talents elsewhere.

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John Escalante Ecuador Into The Fire

Ecuadorian U18 Head Coach John Escalante – Photo: FIBA

For Ecuadorian U18 Head Coach John Escalante, a high school Phys Ed teacher at an American  school in Quito who shares his time as a Provincial Head Coach,  the task of recruiting 12 of the country’s best young players  to compete with some of the planet’s more talented basketball players was daunting. No easy undertaking for a country split into 24 provinces in three distinct racial divides.  Escalante , his oversized glasses that consumed his never ending frown and his fiery disposition, looks every part coach , teacher and master tactician.  But he takes pride in the fact that all 12 players who represented Ecuador were Ecuadorian by birth right. A few countries in the tournament in St. Catharines had naturalized players who held passports of countries other than the ones they were representing on the hardwood.

Coach Escalante just didn’t drop into coaching overnight.  His father was a basketball coach, his uncle coached the game and his brother was once considered the best player in the country.   To carry on with the family tradition he has coached the game for 30 years and from all indications he has many more years left on his clipboard.   When describing his own coaching philosophy Escalante stated: “straight to the hole with my guards shooting threes to compensate for our size.”

Michael Moncayo Is Itching For A Chance To Play In The NCAA

Michael Moncayo Is Itching For A Chance To Play In The NCAA

Luis Riascos, a tall lanky wing, has been an anomaly among his Ecuadorian peers.   Riascos was verbally offered a scholarship to play in the United States during the South American qualifying in Lima, Peru.   For Michael Moncayo it has been a life- long dream to take his impressive guard skills to either an American University or to Europe.  While representing Ecuador in St. Catharines the 5’10” Moncayo filled up the box scores with an array of offensive stats and feared no guard on the other side of the ball.  Moncayo thrived under the spotlight. The 17 year old Moncayo and his 16 year old brother Mateo formed a significant part of the Ecuadorian team’s back court.  Both brothers learned the game during their formative years from their father in Macas, a small agricultural community in the shadows of the rainforest.  Basketball was well rooted in this community of just over 19,000 and the elder Moncayo was a basketball coach who shared his wealth of basketball experience with his two sons. Michael started playing competitively at the age of eight while Mateo when he was six years old.   Both boys were significant cogs within Club Iccan de Macas, a team that captured a national club title in 2017.  

Young Ecuadorian players are identified for national team duty through the ‘intercolegial’, a long high school tournament that is completed throughout each province.  From those competitions players are selected by Provincial coaches to compete in national team pools.  Provincial coaches further select players as the final group suitable to represent Ecuador.  The pool for the U18 team was moved to Quito where they were housed together and trained three to four days a week. Training sessions and scrimmages regularly attracted several hundred onlookers at Julio Cesar Hidalgo Coliseum – one of Ecuador’s two main basketball stadiums.  For Coach Escalante he would liked to have seen more resources placed into his team’s  preparation. He is concerned that basketball in Ecuador deserves more resources as compared to soccer which always seems to get the attention of the politicians. Escalante reported that basketball is a significant growth activity among young people  within Ecuador’s changing sports culture. “Basketball will never overtake soccer as Ecuador’s most popular sport but it is now 2nd in the country,” announced a man who has dedicated his life to seeing basketball get it’s rightly dues.  “Kids at all age levels now want to be part of a national team,’” he stated.

Six games in seven days and the boys from Ecuador failed to post a victory as debutants in their FIBA initiation.    But the new pioneers from South America certainly left Canadian soil knowing that a return engagement to any FIBA competition is not out of the realm of possibilities for teams representing Ecuador.  Their baptism by fire will leave a legacy for young Ecuadorian players to follow.   

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FIBA

Canada draws Group of Death 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup

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Cory Joseph Canada Basketball Draws Group Of Death 2019 Fiba World Cup

Canada’s path to a 2019 FIBA basketball World Cup medal and hopes of a 2020 Olympic berth took a serious blow prior to the start of the games as No. 23 Team Canada was drawn into the group of death — alongside global powerhouses No. 6 Lithuania, No. 11 Australia, and No. 37 Senegal.

2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Groups

2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Groups

For Canada to have a shot at getting to the podium they will have to finish in the top two spots of Group H to advance to second round of the tournament — where the top 16 teams will be split into four new groups (Groups I, J, K, L). If it reaches that stage Team Canada will once again have to finish in the top two to advance to the quarter-finals.

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Canada’s road to the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics is a complex and tough process — given FIBA’s decision to make the World Cup apart of the qualification process. Seven spots are currently up for grabs at FIBA’s flagship event and with hosts Japan earning an automatic entry the room for error is minuscule.

To reach the Olympics, Canada will have to finish as one of the top two teams from the seven team America’s region that features the world’s number one squad in the United States of America alongside traditional mainstays Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezula and Puerto Rico.

If Canada is unable to secure a spot as one of the two top America’s region teams, they will hope to be amongst the top 16 teams at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup where they will be granted automatic qualification to a last chance tournament taking place next summer at a yet to be determined locations. If unable to finish in the top 16, Canada’s last hope would be one of the last eight countries that FIBA would invite for one of the last-chance qualifier tournaments.

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Therefore, if Canada has any hopes of qualifying for the 12-team 2020 Summer Olympics via the World Cup they will need to advance from Group H one as top two teams, failure to advance in the premilinary round will automatically put Canada’s hopes at the mercy FIBA via the invitation tournament only.

Should Canada reach the second-round they will be placed in the newly formed Group L, alongside Group G winner and runner-up — potentially setting up another group of death with No. 3 France, No. 11 Germany, No. 11 Australia or No. 6 Lithuania.

To make matters worse for the Canadians, they have been pooled on the same half of the draw as the United States — which would mean a potential quarter-finals match-up between the two neighbouring nations, if Canada can somehow get there.

If the Canadians can reach the quarter-finals there is a good chance they alongside the USA would be last two standing Americas teams — thus earning automatic berth to Tokyo 2020.

As evident, by the World Cup draw and given FIBA’s recent changes it’s clearly going to be a tough road for the Canadians to fullfill their 2020 vision of becoming a global basketball powerhouse.

Canada opens up the World Cup against Australia on Saturday August 31st and will take on Lithuania on two days rest on Monday September 2nd beforing concluding Group H action against Senegal on Wednesday September 4th, 2019. All of Canada’s preliminary round games will be played in Dongguan, China

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FIBA

Kia Nurse wins Australian pro championship

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Kia Nurse Wins Australian Pro Championship

Kia Nurse of Hamilton, Ont., finished second in MVP voting as she helped the University of Canberra to a WNBL Championship today in Australia.

Nurse, a six-foot guard, had 12 points and three assists in a 93-73 victory over the Adelaide Lightning in a series-clinching Game 3 at home in AIS Arena.

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“Thank you for giving me an opportunity to play with an amazing group of women,” Nurse said on Twitter after the win.

This was the latest in a series of high-profile achievements for the former University of Connecticut standout.

Nurse is coming off a solid rookie season in the WNBA, where she averaged 9.1 points per game with the New York Liberty.

New York finished out of the playoffs, and Nurse transitioned to the Australian Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) during the offseason.

Many WNBA players spend the offseason in other pro leagues, in part because salaries are low.

The average WNBA player makes less than $72,000 according to the Canadian Press.

Nurse had a larger role with Canberra, roughly averaging 18 points, five rebounds and two assists per game.

Canberra’s 2-1 series win over Adelaide gave the club its eighth WNBL title.

Nurse finished second to Canberra captain Kelsey Griffin in voting for the Rachael Sporn Grand Final MVP award, according to CP.

At 22, Nurse is arguably Canada’s best-known women’s player, thanks in part to her long-running involvement with Team Canada at international tournaments.

She led Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and a seventh-place finish at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

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Nurse also won two NCAA titles with UConn, where she was also American Athletic Conference (AAC) Freshman of the year in 2015.

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