The trip to Milan may have taken nearly 24 hours, but Team Brazil is more than thankful for the opportunity to take part in the Euroleague Basketball Nike International Junior Tournament - Milan.
“I am really happy to represent Brazil. This tournament is important for me and the team to develop their game,” Brazilian forward Lucas Teodoro said. “I think they chose us to have some change and bring in a team from the Americas, which has a different style of game.”
Even though Brazil lost its first game against reigning champion Club Joventut Badalona 69-43, Teodoro said the experience has been invaluable for the South Americans. “It’s important to face off against these different teams. For sure it will help me and the other guys evolve as players. We are not accustomed to this intensity of play and the physical style.”
Brazilian coach Pablo Costa emphasized how much the experience of playing two Spanish teams, Joventut and Cajasol Seville, as well as one Serbian team, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade, will help his players over the long haul. “I think it’s really important for them to know how they play in Europe. It will show us where we need to grow. And they know we need to grow, in fundamentals, intensity on defense and rebounding. I hope they can keep this experience in their mind and go back to Brazil and know that they need to work really hard,” said Costa.
Teodoro is one of this Brazil team’s highest hopefuls as he showed with a good all-around game against Joventut with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 6 blocks. He was surprised at the level in Milan. “I knew that this is a very important tournament for this age group, but I didn’t know it was going to be so good. So I wasn’t really prepared for this kind of level.”
Costa, who coaches Teodoro at the club level in Brazil, believes the forward is growing by leaps and bounds. “He didn’t participate a lot during the game [last year]. His defense wasn’t too strong. He used to jump a lot on blocked shots, not knowing what he was doing. He didn’t have a lot confidence in his shot. I think he grew a lot. The most important thing is him participating in the game,” said Costa. “He needs to get some more weight. It will come a little with age but he has to work on it and care about it because he needs to be able to play with contact.”
Costa also said that Teodoro needs to work on his ball handling as he works on being a small forward. Playing against the highly-skilled European players will go a long way in helping Teodoro and the rest of his compatriots improve.
The Brazilians will use the experience they gain in Milan as they prepare to play in June at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship - and hope to qualify for the FIBA U19 World Championship next summer - when Teodoro and his teammates may face some of these same players again.