Alberto Herreros, a professional of the three-pointer

Oct 27, 2013 by Vladimir Stankovic - Print
Vladimir StankovicIf an elite sportsman has a dream, that's probably scoring the last goal, the last shot or the last point so that his team wins an important title. Alberto Herreros (April 20, 1969 in Madrid) was lucky enough to live that moment. It was June 26, 2005 and it was the fifth game of the finals of the Spanish League playoffs between Real Madrid and Tau Ceramica. Both finalists had won a road game in the series but Game 5 was being played in Vitoria because Tau had the homecourt advantage. The Tau Ceramica fans were expecting the win and the title. In minute 40, with their team ahead 69-61, they started to celebrate.

A three-pointer for the ages

It was then that one of those miracles that only can happen in basketball occurred. Without any apparent reason, the hosts started committing mistakes: Luis Scola and Jose Manuel Calderon missed free throws, Pablo Prigioni and Tiago Splitter turned the ball over. Real Madrid comes within two points, 67-69, but the title was still in Tau's hands. Herreros didn't play much in the series, but after a disappointing performance by Louis Bullock, the best scorer in Madrid then (he fouled out with 11 points after making just 2 of 9 three-pointers), head coach Boza Maljkovic decided to go with Herreros's experience. His only shot during the 3 minutes he was on court happened 6 seconds before the final buzzer. He got the ball on the right corner, his favorite position. He pulled up, took the shot and it hit nothing but net. It was the 1,233th triple of his Spanish League career, a difficult to beat record. But this one meant a title for his team.

Officially, Herreros didn't know it would be his last game. But at 36 years old and with a basket like this, he could not find a better way to say farewell to the courts after 17 seasons in the elite with 655 games and 9,757 points. Basketball was fair to Herreros, a great scorer, a modern forward with a privileged wrist. In just a moment, basketball gave it all back to him after so many years.

From Estudiantes to Real

Alberto Herreros started playing for Estudiantes in Madrid. But like many others (Fernando and Antonio Martin, Alfonso and Felipe Reyes, Juan Antonio Orenga, Jose Miguel Antunez...) he moved on to Real Madrid. His only trophy with Estudiantes was a King'c Cup in 1992. Estudiantes had won the title 29 years earlier. In the quarterfinals, Estudiantes eliminated Real Madrid 82-80 as Herreros scored 19 points. In the semis, they beat Joventut by 78-77 with 13 points by Herreros. In the final game, Estu defeated CAI Zaragoza by 61-56 as Herreros and Ricky Winslow had 16 points apiece and John Pinone was named MVP in his eighth season with the team.

In 1996, after eight years with Estudiantes, Herreros made the decision to switch teams in the Spanish capital. The Estudiantes fans never forgave him for that, but it was a rightful ambition on his part: a great player needed to be on a big team in order to evolve and win titles. With Real Madrid he won two league titles (2000 and 2005) and a Saporta Cup. The Saporta Cup final was played in Nicosia, Cyprus, on April 15, 1997. The opponent was Scaligera Basket Verona. Real Madrid, coached by Zeljko Obradovic, and with Dejan Bodiroga as best scorer in the competition (20.2 points, 6.9 rebounds) won by 78-64. Herreros scored 19 points with great numbers: 5 of 5 two-pointers, 2 of 3 triples and 3 of 3 from the stripe. It was his only European title at the club level. Real Madrid had a powerful team, with Bodiroga, Joe Arlauckas, Herreros, Alberto Angulo and Juan Antonio Orenga. But it had failed to make the Euroleague that year.

In the Euroleague, the closest Hererros came to winning was in 1991-92 in Istanbul, when Estudiantes took part in the Final Four but fell in the semis to Joventut Badalona in an all-Spanish game. Joventut was led by Jordi Villacampa with 28 points and the final score was 69-91. Curiously, Estudiantes had defeated Partizan Belgrade twice in the group stage, 75-95 and 75-72, as the Serbian team had to play its home games in Fuenlabrada, Spain under FIBA orders. However, Partizan would win the final against Joventut thanks to the famous three-pointer by Sasha Djordjevic in the last seconds. Such is basketball...

Estudiantes had a great team in the first edition of the Euroleague that year, under a new format, with three representatives from the most powerful countries in the sport. We must not forget that FIBA applied this formula one year before UEFA did it with the Champions League in 1992-93. The averages for Winslow were 18.5 points, Herreros had 18.0, Pinone had 14.3 and Orenga 11.2. Estudiantes was the first team to debut in the competition and make the Final Four the same season.

Alberto Herreros - Real MadridWithout winning titles, Alberto Herreros left his imprint in the European competitions. His personal record, 42 points, was achieved on December 7, 1993 against Pfizer Reggio Emilia (81-97). He was almost perfect: 10 of 11 two-pointers, 5 of 7 threes, 7 of 7 from the line. His thing was scoring. A lot. But once, against Bayer Leverkusen in the Korac Cup, he pulled 10 rebounds. Not bad for a player just 1.99 meters tall!

Best scorer in EuroBasket and World Championship

Alberto Herreros made his debut in the Spanish national team in 1990 against Czechoslovakia and scored his first 11 points. Until 2003 he would be a main referece on the team, an important scorer in all competitions. His average in FIBA events was 12.5 points, from the 10.5 in the Argentina worlds in 1990 to the 3.3 at the 2003 EuroBasket in Sweden. His best moments with the team were, without a doubt, the two silvers at the 2003 and 1999 EuroBaskets. In the latter, in Paris, his average was 19.2 points. He was the best scorer and a member of the All-Tournament team with Carlton Myers, Andrea Meneghin, Dejan Bodiroga and Gregor Fucka.

His best average in a World Championships had happened a year before in Athens. Spain finished fifth, but Herreros, with 17.9 points, was the tp scorer over Mohamed Acha of Nigeria (17.5), Arturas Karnisovas of Lithuania (17.1), Shane Heal (Australia) 17.0, Andrew Gazse (Australia) 16.9 or Jose "Piculin" Ortiz (Puerto Rico) 16.5.

He was a natural born scorer, with a great wrist, a fast man who could score a lot on the break, but his best weapon was his shot. He didn't care, two- or three-pointers, whenever he had the minimal space, he took the shot and, what is most important, he succeeded most of the time. His personal high in the Spanish League was 38 points against Leon.

That same year, on December 29, 1998 he played the FIBA all-star game in Berlin. He was a starting member of the West team, who lost to the East by 98-104 in one of his last events of this kind. He was never drafted into the NBA even though the Indiana Pacers took an interest in him. But his world was European basketball for Real Madrid and the Spanish national team. Since his retirement he has been working in Real Madrid as sports director.