Santi Aldama and Usman Garuba: History of two ways to get to the NBA

Santi Aldama (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2001) was born the same year in which the history of the Gasol family began in Memphis. He should not surprise him t

Santi Aldama and Usman Garuba: History of two ways to get to the NBA

Santi Aldama (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2001) was born the same year in which the history of the Gasol family began in Memphis. He should not surprise him to confess not having seen Pau on his day to play with the Grizzlies. If perhaps, open a crack in the self-esteem of those who did see it and are still considered young. Aldama represents next to Usman Garuba (Madrid, 2002) The new wave of Spanish basketball, which for the first time since 2009 had two players selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

Aldama and Garuba were the pillars of the Spanish national team that won the European Sub 18 in the summer of 2019. The Canary was elected as MVP of a tournament that served him as a great presentation in society. And that of Azuqueca, included in an ideal quintet where Ziga Samar was also, with whom he coincided very briefly at Real Madrid, or Alpreren Sengun, the new partner at Houston Rockets. But when it comes to continuing its way to the NBA, each one took an opposite direction.

Garuba followed in Real Madrid, where last season was an important player. And Aldama, formed in Canarbury Canario, dismissed the offers he had in Spain to go to the United States. For some time it is often common for some Spanish promises to try the NCAA, but not its caliber. The Canary chose Loyola Maryland, a small university but where he would have more options to shine, and at faith he did it.

After a first course with all possible obstacles (a knee operation, a broken finger, a world pandemic), the brightness of the second allowed him to shorten the deadlines and present this same summer to the draft. With election number 30 of the Grizzlies, where he now will be mate of Juancho Hernangomen, he opened another horizon: in the first Spanish player to reach the NBA from the University League.

The Summer League of Las Vegas was born in the head of Warren Legarie, that famous agent in the Spain of the eighties and ninety to take Fernando Martín or Drazen Petrovic to the NBA, or George Karl al Real Madrid. More and more players and coaches lived there in summer to pay less taxes, and Legarie, with calling so much to kick these leagues throughout the country to identify talent that leads to Europe, saw the business.

Las Vegas took time on the radar of the NBA but, so it was, the league was reluctant to have a team in a place known as 'the city of sin'. Legarie convinced Adam Silver in the Final Four of the Euroleiga 2003 in Barcelona, and David Stern at the 2004 All-Star. In a couple of months he had already raised the structure, and in a decade he had become the epicenter of The NBA in summer.

This summer league is where the young promises go to look for their first NBA spotlights or, the less fortunate, to earn a contract. Also in Europe, because in the grades there are no lack of directors on this side of the puddle. And where Garuba and Aldama have taken their first steps with the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies respectively.

In both cases they have gone from less to more to close with their best match. Garuba, with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 robberies and a decisive stopper for victory at half a minute of the end. Aldama, with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists against Chicago Bulls.

"It has only been getting used to the level of play, feeling more comfortable and getting to know my colleagues," said Aldama about that adaptation to "a totally new world". "It's playing very fast, it's different from what I'm used to, it's an experience to learn and get used to the NBA world." A process that continues now with five weeks of preparation until the beginning of its first preseason in the NBA.

Updated Date: 18 August 2021, 20:45

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