On the day that Usman Garuba was born in the Hospital 12 de Octubre in Madrid, Felipe Reyes was in the Barris Nord pavilion in Lleida collecting with Estudiantes seven of the 4,722 rebounds he has in the ACB. On Tuesday, the youth squad turned 19 years old. Next week, seven days apart, the Madrid captain will celebrate 41. For a couple of years, Laso's team has been witnessing a specific and supervised transition between two players who play in the same position, bordering on the same height, between 2.03m and 2.04m, and they share precociousness in their arrival to the elite two decades apart.
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Felipe's 23rd season is Usman's second complete. Both face this Thursday the mission of containing Jasikevicius' Barça (21.00, DAZN), which, pending the effective incorporation of Pau Gasol, arrives at WiZink as the leader of the Euroleague and with the wind in favor against a team weighed down by the casualties. “Every game in the Euroleague from now on is a war and we want to certify the move to the playoff in the best possible position. It is the classic and we go with an extra motivation. The victory would be a good birthday present, a kind of rematch after the Copa del Rey ”, Garuba himself pointed out on the eve of another important episode in his path of maturity. The NBA already has him on its radar and this 2021 is the first year in which he will be eligible in the draft . This course averages 4.6 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes in the league; and 2.6 and 3.3 respectively in the 13 on average in the Euroleague.
On October 28, 2018, at 16 years, 7 months and 19 days, Usman starred in the third earliest debut in the history of Real Madrid , only behind Roberto Núñez (16 years and 7 months, in 1994) and Luka Doncic (16 years, 2 months and 2 days, in 2015). The first milestone of an early hatching marked by a privileged physique. Usman is the oldest of three siblings. Her parents, Mustapha and Betty, fled the conflict and hardships of Benin City, Nigeria, in search of a better future in Europe. After trying their luck without success in Brussels, they arrived in Madrid at the end of the 90s and finally settled in Azuqueca de Henares (Guadalajara). Usman's growth spurt, which before reaching 14 was already around two meters, quickly led him to basketball, where he has devoured stages, almost always emerging among older kids.
“Since he was a child he has stood out for his athletic abilities, but also for his intelligence on the track. Now his evolution involves working on his medium and long-distance shooting and improving the percentage of free throws ”, explains Gabriel Álvaro, the coach who received Usman in the Madrid children's team back in 2013, when he was 11 years old. “Usman is living with Felipe a case similar to the one that Luka [Doncic] lived with Chapu [Nocioni]. What Felipe transmits to all young people is patience and the best advice to guide them and Usman has a great capacity to listen. We are watching the relay live ”, concludes Álvaro.
“ He has had a perfect progression ”, confirms José Luis Pichel, a training technician at the Madrid quarry in the years in which Alberto Angulo led the restructuring of the promises factory . “In the NCAA, at this stage, 90% of the kids are not even going to be professionals and Usman is already carrying many times the weight of a team that is in the fight to be European champion and faces players of absolute elite. The work comes from below and, later, Pablo Laso and his staff have always had the ability to improve all the players who have passed through their hands ", continues Pichel, who highlights" an extraordinary virtue "of Garuba:" His awesome engine. It has a unique ability to engage in consecutive efforts without lowering intensity ”, complete.
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“He mixes shyness and humility with leadership skills unfit for his age, even among older people. It has never been difficult for you to assume responsibilities or face challenges. Has a great predisposition to work, ability to suffer and overcome. That leads him to make the difficult things easy ”, highlights Javier Zamora, former Student coach and Garuba coach in regional teams and also in the Spanish U-16 team that won gold in the 2016 European Championship – in which Usman was elected MVP. from the final by achieving a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks—; the following summer, Aldama and Garuba's team was silver in the same category; And, in 2019, Garuba hung another gold in Greece's U18s. “Madrid has bet on him and has given him a very important space that he has been able to take advantage of to develop. He has a family environment and an excellent sports education ”, adds Zamora.
In Valdebebas the parallels of this Usman with that first Felipe are frequently reviewed. Your passion, motivation and desire. Also his lack of measure, which sometimes leads him to go over the top and make mistakes. But it never contemplates saving efforts. "We are using him too much, in the sense that too many responsibilities are coming to him ahead of time," acknowledges Laso, between trust and constant demand, with several rapapolas in the dead times. “His ceiling is much higher and Laso knows he can and should push him. Usman responds very well, he never falls apart ”, Álvaro takes up projecting the future. “Thinking about the NBA now seems premature. But, in two or three years, he will have the necessary maturity to face another leap ”, he points out. Like Laso, the captain also squeezes him. But the mentor Felipe's arm on Garuba's shoulders is a common image in this Madrid, to redirect frustrations, give advice and polish actions. Links in the same chain. A live relay.