Jasiel Rivero (Havana, 1993) is a special player. Few professionals start an interview revealing, bare-chested, that they love doing them. Pure flow. With his closed Cuban accent he explains his peculiar career. Since a coach met his father on a bus to almost signing for Madrid last year, when the plague of casualties.
El Papi has just landed in the heat of Valencia after spending two seasons in Burgos loaded with titles but with an enormous cold for a Cuban. His dream is to play in the NBA, against his idol LeBron but first he wants to triumph in Valencia, “one of the greats of this League.”
How were your beginnings?
My dad met a basketball coach on a guagua (bus). And since he is six feet tall, he asked him if he had any children. When he said yes, he said: “Bring it to me.” I was very restless when I was little and my dad used to keep me active. There I started practicing basketball although I was wondering whether to dedicate myself to volleyball. In the end I kept basketball.
What was basketball like in Cuba?
Very different from here. There are not many resources. There are not so many balls, sneakers … but at that time it became fashionable and everyone wanted to play. I liked it and the family was happy although they never dreamed that I would become a professional. It was a hobby and then he started to get more serious.
When did you feel professional?
In 2015 I went to Tabarés, that was my beginning as a professional. In a tournament with the Cuban team, an agent told me that he wanted to represent me. I had no idea because in Cuba until 2015 you couldn’t go out and play as a professional. You couldn’t get out. There the athlete’s life is complicated because they don’t pay you in the professional leagues. There are still many athletes who drop out.
And then, playing in Argentina, he got the chance to reach warm Spain …
(Laughs) I bought the first coat of my life in Uruguay. In Cuba, the minimum temperature I’ve been to is 14 degrees. When the possibility of coming to Spain was given, they told me that I was going to one of the best leagues but when I said it was Burgos they recommended that I start buying coats. But not the one he wore in Uruguay, but one of those puffy ones, with feathers and a hood. They told me I was going to freeze to death. I hope the winter in Valencia is warmer. Is winter here like now?
Man it’s colder than now.
In Burgos I put the heating continuously at 27 degrees. They tell me not to do that because when I went out I would go from Cuba to Burgos. He was always flu-like.
And there the confinement happened …
I was lucky because the first year I was alone and for the confinement my wife was already here. I was lucky because my daughter came out of confinement. From so long locked up that there was nothing to do, you know … (laughs).
Have you already found the flow in Valencia?
We haven’t been out much yet. I have not yet been able to give him that charisma that is needed … Let’s hope the campaign goes well so that the gaps can appear and do something or other.
Let’s talk about basketball. What can you tell me about Peñarroya?
The first time we spoke, he spoke to me clearly: “Look, we have two foreigners here, you’re going to be able to play in the Champions League. If you win the position, you will have your role ”. I really liked it because it spoke to me clearly, knowing where I am and what I could achieve. He liked the way I pulled myself and I ended up playing.
And now it has brought him to Valencia …
He told me: “As there are rumors, I am going to throw the stone to see what happens. I don’t promise you anything… ”. And it worked.
In Burgos he was in the second quintet of the ACB, he won the Champions League, the Intercontinental …
We won two Champions in the same year. I dont believe it. I come from Cuba, from playing as an amateur and now I find these things.
And now it comes to a big …
I was very excited: a big team in the League, warm weather, similar to Cuba, I can take off my coat … And I said: “Let’s go to that challenge.”
And how has it adapted?
I thought it was going to cost me more because the team has players from many years ago. I tried to fit in with the team. I met good colleagues, they received me great. Despite the fact that I have such a pleasant charisma that I get in and adapt wherever I am.
And how does he get along with Dubljevic?
Fairly good. I always like to collide with the players harder. In game we have hardly been able to play together yet. But yes in training. He likes shock and so do I. We have understood each other quite well. I hope this gives us good things on the court.
This year several ACB players have made the leap to the NBA. That is her dream…
Yes, once you are a professional you would like to reach the top. Imagine being there in the NBA playing with LeBron, who is my idol, with all the greats of this profession. It is very difficult but it never leaves my mind that this possibility comes up.
The fact is that Real Madrid arrives at La Fonteta …
And the world stops, right? In my first campaign here I was amazed but now it’s one more game. It is one of the biggest club in the League. When you play against Madrid, you go with more energy, with more desire. Then it turns out right or wrong. Let’s face it. The last word is said by the court. Let’s go get them.
Are you preparing a hairstyle of yours for tomorrow?
I’m going to wear a little color. I have many at home but I have to surprise. If I told you, it would no longer surprise you. Against Zaragoza, in my debut, people were more concerned with my hair than with those below. Since we like it so much we will give a taste to the fans.
Did Madrid really love you last season?
There was everything. Several teams were interested. When he had casualties, there were Tyus, Ayón and I … and at the end Tyus entered.
How do you play against Tavares?
It is very good inside, very big. You always have to play it on the go. If you start posting … that’s impossible. Try to move it, get it out of the paint, with the pick and roll. Once you remove Tavares, the game is more even, especially, having Dubi. The difference is made by Tavarés. Without it, we can play easier.
Now there is Madrid but surely he thinks about the next game …
To home. I had good feelings from Burgos. But we couldn’t celebrate the titles with the people. That remains pending. It will be special.
Possible debut of López-Arostegui
Madrid visit Valencia Basket this Sunday (18:30, #Vamos) less than 48 hours after losing their first game of the season on the Olympiacos court. In the Taronja López-Arostegui team he is recovered and could make his debut after being signed this summer from Joventut. Joan Peñarroya, yes, continues with the losses of Van Rossom, Prepelic and Tobey.
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