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meeting the future giant of Spanish basketball

On the podium of the U17 world championship held in Malaga this summer, the imposing figure of a happy giant stood out. With the silver medal around his neck and the Spanish flag on his shoulders, Aday Mara (Zaragoza, 2005) signed the first milestone in a career at the Martín Carpena that promises to illuminate the future of Spanish basketball from the vantage point of his 2.20m tall (still growing). His service sheet in the tournament included remarkable records of 12.6 points (71.2% on 2-point shots), 5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.9 blocks and an average rating of 16.4 in just 18 5 minutes per game. But, beyond his numbers and his formidable physique, the center left the mark of his intelligence and determination, and the smile of what is to come.

The next step was his debut in the Endesa League, on Sunday, October 16, with are Casademont Zaragoza. Another special day in which he once again showed his enjoying image with a repertoire (which included four rebounds, a two-handed dunk, aalley-oop, and a triple arriving in the race) that unleashed the illusion in Príncipe Felipe. Despite the defeat against Cazoo Baskonia that cost Martin Schiller his job, the Aragonese fans went home embracing the future of a 2nd year high school student who will come of age in five months (April 7) and in the end of the course he will take the EVAU tests with the idea of ​​enrolling in Physiotherapy.

Meanwhile, his entourage and the team try to contain an unstoppable explosion, to maintain the progressiveness scheduled for his arrival at the elite and to keep away the noise of siren songs that are already crossing the Atlantic. “He shows a set of passing skills that you don’t teach. He has vision of the court, knowledge of the game, synchronization, precision… It seems that he has eyes in the back of his neck”, declared to the FIBA ​​website one of the NBA scouts present at the World Cup who, protected by anonymity, did not hesitate in launching a bombastic comparison. “Since Jokic we have not seen any European center as good a passer as him,” snapped the unknown American coach.

Everyone around Aday agrees that the best way to get off the ground is to always keep your feet on the ground. But the World Cup final in Malaga against the United States (16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 blocks! from Aday that day) had a foundational value for the handy center and for the entire generation of 2005, as confirmed by coach Sergio Scariolo . “It is a special generation, because it has everything: a good number of level players, with projections to reach the first team, and also the absolute quality of players with a great future,” explains Scariolo, between inevitable prudence and hope. irrepressible. A litter that the Virtus coach analyzes by reeling off the names of Izan Almansa (MVP of the U17 World Cup and the U18 European Championship), Sergio de Larrea, Lucas Langarita, Abel Delicado, Álvaro Folgueiras, Conrad Martínez… and, of course, Aday Mara . “He is a player of extraordinary interest, because with the centimeters that he has, he shows coordination, agility and an instinct for the game that are really superior. He has a good touch up close, and also a good hand to extend his shooting range to the 3 line. He still has to mature physically, but he is already very competitive. He never backs down, even when it comes to going to the clash against stronger rivals, ”the coach x-rayed.

Meanwhile, in times of praise and expectations, at home it is time for prudence and moderation. The family road map outlined for Aday marks, to begin with, eight months of hard effort to carry out the studies and combine them with an hour of technical training, physical training and weights, three days a week before classes; and with the training sessions with her team after high school. A gradual growth that includes the strict dosing of social networks and the utmost caution and synchronization with the club when joining the Casademont first team. Last season he started at Olivar, a subsidiary of Zaragoza in the EBA League, and made his debut with the seniors in the FIBA ​​Europe Cup (“I like his enthusiasm and his face”, said Jaume Ponsarnau when giving him the alternative). He was later loaned to Huesca in the LEB Oro (with time to share the court with Marc Gasol in his re-release in Girona and keep the shirt of one of his great idols).

Angelica’s only son Enter Gómez (historic international Spanish volleyball player, 1.92m tall, who made a career, above all, in his native Tenerife) and Francisco Javier Mara (2.01m power forward, who made his ACB debut with Manel Comas’ CAI in 1986) has grown up with “a privileged sports education, which runs in the family”, says Javier Zamora, the coach of Menorca in Leb Plata and of the U17 team runner-up in the world in Malaga. “On a technical level, he is constantly looking for the next move. And, at a tactical level, he always wants to understand the why of things. He watches basketball very quickly. That is why his passing ability stands out, because of how he reads the game”, Zamora develops, who, above Aday’s size (2.35m), values ​​his “special character and tolerance for frustration”. “In moments of maximum competitive stress, he is able to show a smile, without losing focus. He mixes responsibility and happiness because he is passionate about what he does ”, continues the U17 coach, who adds a descriptive example of Aday Mara’s desire. “He is always looking for challenges, before and after training. He plays with his teammates to see who gets the most shots, he challenges them to shoot triples with their left to one foot, to rehearse movements of crossover… You always want more. He tries to improve himself, but with collective thinking ahead, ”says Zamora.

The promising gang with which Aday Mara won world silver at Carpena arrived at the tournament after two years without competing officially, in 2020 due to the pandemic and in 2021 due to the covid cases that left the team out of the Challengers FIBA U16. “Until the preparation we did not have direct references, but we arrived with a lot of competitive hunger,” Zamora emphasizes, while analyzing an excellent summer in training categories (8 finals in the 8 FIBA ​​official championships in which Spain has participated in men’s and women’s : 6 Europeans and 2 World Cups, with 3 golds and 5 silvers). “The key is teamwork. They are processes with a methodology that already has many years of experience. Each generation develops its automatisms and molds its technical-tactical background to reach the senior level with the most experience and training. The fundamental thing is the coordination between the Spanish Federation, the Autonomous Communities and the clubs. They all go hand in hand to agree on the best possible path for each player. This is how we managed to shape always competitive generations”, completes Zamora.

Step by step, Aday Mara completes stages of the path she began when she entered the Federation’s radar at just 12 years old. “He surprised us as a child. It was hard for him to run the track because of his height, but he had extraterrestrial conditions. He was not like the rest ”, analyzes David Soria, responsible for the FEB training programs from 12 to 16 years old. “He is a very intelligent player. Because of what he had suffered in the interior positions, which could seem to be his comfort zone, he developed great versatility. He had so little weight and his hips were so high that any player would push him. There he had the virtue of open to start shooting and passing from the outside. This is how he gradually improved, near and far from the hoop. Also, it is very competitive. In the face of challenges, stick out your chest. He can become a differential player for the future of Spanish basketball ”, adds Soria, who since childhood has worked hand in hand with the Zaragoza coaches to take care of Aday’s evolution, and to personalize his physical preparation to the maximum. “It is a unique case and that required specific work on coordination, mobility, and progressive muscle gain”, he details. It was about polishing the technical qualities of the center and harmonizing them with his constant physical growth (9 centimeters in the last three years).

Between 2018 and 2021, Sergio Josa was in charge of the Casademont Zaragoza youth academy, who supervised the evolution of Aday Mara from the age of 14 to 16. “He has made faster progress than normal. For tall and large children, psychomotor development is usually slow, but he has overcome these difficulties based on talent and knowledge of the game. That is his differential factor, ”says Josa, who explains Aday’s basketball culture by his relationship with his father. “When he was in infant or cadet, his father still played in a work or friends league and Aday always went to see him and they discussed aspects of the game. And when Aday finished his games, the same thing happened, they always analyzed things to improve. Since he was a child, he enjoys moving forward and learning new things. He always seeks to go one step further, ”he reviews. “We have had Carlos Alocén, Jaime Pradilla, or Vit Krejci, who were seen to be special, but the Aday thing… Everything that he has inside has always seemed outrageous to me. You have to mix prudence with not closing doors. Now comes the most difficult part, but his head is very well furnished and, if his physique respects him, he will surprise us all ”, concludes the coach from Zaragoza.

An exciting message regarding the future of Aday Mara that Sergio Scariolo projects in collective terms for the promising cast of 2005. “There is material for this to be probably, due to accumulated talent, the best generation we have had since the 80s and that is words greater. You don’t have to put pressure with expectations, although it seems to me that they are guys who have no problem assuming this pressure and knowing how to manage it. And that makes us have high hopes for them”, closes the coach, venturing into a giant future.

Photo: Esther Casas
Their numbers in Liga Endesa

His best match in the Endesa League
Article originally published in the Gigantes 1526 magazine of November 2022

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