So this past weekend I seized the opportunity to go and check out the 20th annual “Torneig Infantil de L’Hospitalet.” A tournament with the top Infantil teams in Spain. In infantil the kids are all going to turn 14 years old in 2010 although I imagine there may have been a couple players “playing up.”
I was very anxious to see the top talent in Spain in the middle of their development. Especially with top talent being produced in Spain at such a high rate I had very high expectations. First and foremost, the kids were tall, really tall. It is clear that here they are not just taking the best players, as I remember reading in the coaching courses, there is a very detailed selection process for these types of programs and top level clubs that includes having a good look at the genetics of the kids. It was also difficult because I was thinking I would be able to compare it to basketball back home but I can’t remember the last time I saw 13-14 year old American kids play hoop so I really have no basis for comparison.
A few things that were noteworthy, the two top teams FC Barcelona and DKV Juventud (where Rubio developed) only did left handed layup lines, they just didn’t even do right handed layups. I thought that was very interesting, it is something I do with my kids to some extent but I only saw those two clubs do left handed layup lines. In all of the games that I watched, I did not see any team call one play and very very few pick and rolls. The kids are playing man to man defense and just playing how they feel and see. That is to say the coaches are not telling them what they need to do or what should look for. Obviously these teams had good understandings of spacing on the court and the importance of movement without the ball but there were no set plays. I can remember from the time I started playing basketball we had set plays. Not giving preference one way or another but I think it is necessary for players to have a time in their formation when they find their own solutions to situations on the basketball court, for many kids in the states we get this experience on the playgrounds.
I was really impressed with DKV’s defense, they were playing great man to man defense for 40 minutes and for alot of the time running traps at the ball as soon as they put it on the floor. And it was very effective and the kids looked really instinctive on the defensive end of the court.
None of the coaches made substitutions during the quarter (for the most part). I think in the level before (pre infantil) it may be required to play the same five for the whole period but it was not required but all teams seemed to practice this. And I think that it has a very positive effect on the kids because they know when they play that they are going to play for the whole quarter.
The second day I saw two games back to back, Unicaja (Malaga) versus DKV (Catalunia) in which DKV gave Unicaja more than they could handle. DKV winning by 40 points or so. Unicaja had a guy on their bench taking stats in full sweats and he was out of control, yelling at the ref, getting in the middle of timeouts and even pushing players at one point. It made the whole situation on their bench really chaotic between the coach giving instructions, the players hot and bothered becasue it seemed like all they were doing was taking the ball out of the basket and then trying to inbound it and then the guy in the classic 80′s jumpsuit running through pushing and yelling at people.
The other game was a classic, actually better put it was “El Classico” a Barca vs Madrid and it was a lacked a little bit of the energy and tension of the futbol version. Barca beat down Madrid in all aspects of the game and ended the game by closing down the scoreboard or going up by 50 points on a dime by the smallest guy on the court, a pg for Barca to a cutting big man and then a pretty emphatic celebration.
The results made me think that Catalunia is a step ahead of the rest of Spain in basketball, especially early on in the formation. Not sure why but in talking with people they also told me that Barca and DKV are almost always the finalists in this tournament. Not sure why such a difference within the same country, but right now I’m in the epicenter of Spanish basketball.
I didn’t get a chance to see the finals but was convinced after seeing those two games that Barca would dominate and win the finals easily. Another case in point that the game is not played on paper or in anybody’s head. DKV beat Barca by 3 to take home the championship.