Pepe Sánchez, Leandro Bolmaro’s guide to the NBA: the talent that captivated him and why playing in Minnesota will be key to his future

Pepe Sánchez was a key character in the arrival of Leandro Bolmaro to the NBA (INFOBAE)

Pepe Sanchez is on the run. The night of Wednesday, November 18, a date that will be remembered by all national basketball lovers as the day that Argentina once again had a player in the NBA, it was long. Very long. “When I fell asleep, I fell asleep. Now it’s a mess, but I slept with a baby and now with everything again “, told the historical Olympic champion base with the selection to Infobae from your beloved Bahía Blanca.

From his place in the world, the former base of the selected team followed the transmission of the Draft 2020, one that was very particular for Latin American basketball, since Leandro Bolmaro he was the only representative from the region. After a long wait, the native of Las Varillas, Córdoba, was chosen in number 23 by the New York Knicks, but after a previously sealed agreement, that young man who is nicknamed Onion changed the cap of said franchise and put on the one of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that selected him in the highest place in the history of the draw among the Argentines who participated in the lottery.

“The parents told me how everyone in Las Varillas came out to celebrate,” said Pepe, who took the opportunity to recall a moment that occurred a short time ago. Because the story of Bolmaro and his arrival at one of the greatest stages of world sport was undoubtedly meteoric. “The first times we spoke I told them ‘fasten your seatbelts because this is going very fast.’ The athlete’s career, when there is a talent like that, the talent only looks for its place. It was all in three years: from leaving his Almafuerte club in Las Varillas to being drafted by the NBA “.

A few hours after Bolmaro’s election, Pepe Sánchez gave details of his relationship with the great Argentine basketball talent who confirmed that he will continue for the rest of the season in Barcelona. What did he say the first time he saw him play, the importance of reaching a team that has the Argentine Paul prigioni between its ranks, Leandro’s connection with the Golden Generation and his joy at the imminent confirmation that Facundo Campazzo He will join the NBA in the coming days.

– How did you experience the NBA Draft election ceremony?

– We were connected with him via zoom with his family, several boys played with him in Bahía Basket. It was long, but when we started to get to position 20 I knew that that was the issue. I took the opportunity to go talking to some sources from various teams who are there to tell me something, some situations, and finally the truth that the moment of the election was beautiful. I did not experience it, but it must be beautiful to be waiting for that moment. So happy for Leandro, for his family. It was a goal cry when his name came out.

– You who know Prigioni, you know the NBA organization, what is the value of Bolmaro going to Minnesota, a franchise that is in full reconstruction, with young talent and with this Latin connection with the Colombian Gersson Rosas (president of operations) and with Pablo on the technical staff?

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– The value is enormous. Huge. Entering the NBA is already a step. Get drafted. Where you go, who you go with, what organization you go to is even more key. And in this sense the opportunity that is generated for Leandro is tremendous. It reminds me of Manu’s step for falling into the correct franchise. Because in the end, the important thing is the people who are in the team, the place is the least of it. The franchise is under reconstruction, there is Pablo who will be an invaluable help because he will be his tutor, his guide. From what Pablo knows about player development and what he is as a person. There is Gersson who is the general manager, who is a bit the one who chooses him, the one who opted for him and then having Ricky (Rubio) and Juancho Hernangomez also there next door. It is an ideal place, with a clear dedication to player development.

– Did he ask you what could be the best possible scenario for them to choose it? Did you have any particular intention to go to a team?

– Look, our contact is super daily. But in fact, we never discussed this topic. Because it is not under the control of the player which team selects you and also that would not help him at all. For that there are also the people who represent it. What he has to care about is the game, and within that my permanent advice is on the human side, questions of the game itself, its tactics, but with guiding it in the basic questions that have to do with what is important to play basketball. The important thing is not the noise that was generated by this, but what he is going to be on the basketball court. My focus, my relationship with his family, is on not ‘losing the north’ of understanding that the game is the key. Because everything else, as it comes, goes. Attention, as it comes it goes. And also introduce you to people, make contacts. Make him talk with Manu (Ginobili), Scola, with other NBA players, with Pablo (Prigioni) himself, that is, surround him with healthy people, who are going to help him and who have already traveled the road and who have a lot to offer him. Advise him on habits: for example, he started working with Pablo Maccari (a physiotherapist for the Argentine basketball team). That’s a bit of the role.

The video with Messi and Ginobili that the NBA used to introduce Bolmaro

– How was the first time you were able to see Bolmaro live to take him to Weber Bahía Basket?

– Someone told me about Leandro and I went to see him with Fabri (Oberto). Someone who was key in the arrival of Lean was Fabri Oberto. In fact, we went with his truck from Córdoba to Cañada de Gómez to see him in an Argentine tournament. But nothing, you see, when there is a talent you don’t have to see it. Is there. It was very obvious to me. He is a different talent: to see how he moved, how he executed on the court making difficult situations easy. And good, Fabri was key because he spoke with Osvaldo and Adriana (his parents) and told them that Bahia was the ideal place for him to develop. Leandro had offers from many teams that wanted to recruit him, like us, and they chose because of this development path, not because of offers perhaps more linked to economics or some other promise. Our promise was to work, create habits and many times that scares the talent that wants to go the easy way. We proposed a different path, the one we do here. Fabri ratified it and hence the confidence of the parents and Leandro in choosing us. And when the Barcelona thing came up, saying ‘yes I am moving away from my country, my family, my friends’, and taking that step that we thought was the right one. And indeed it was.

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– He measures more than 2 meters, has a tremendous arms span, has a good outside shot, passes the ball well, has good vision of the game, is an interesting combo with the changes that occurred in the game. Especially in the NBA that shooting beyond seven meters became key to his position.

– Yes, and that’s what has the NBA intrigued with him. All the potential it has. Lean is a player who when he goes from very good to excellent his long-distance shot will take a leap. Because the rest has it all. Has the size and versatility to play basketball that is played today. The ‘positon less’, that is, it has no position. And another of the things that most caught the attention of the people of the NBA with whom I spoke is that their game is built from defense. That is very rare in the boys of today have gotten into that the NBA is built from the attack. He uses his wingspan to defend, he defends the entire court and that is something that the boys have a hard time understanding because they don’t have enough work. But he understood that the game begins with defense.

– Is your recommendation to continue in Barcelona or to go to the NBA now?

– That is particular because there are contractual issues. First it was his decision. For me he is very comfortable in Barcelona. He is part of the team, he is part of the rotation, he has a very good coach. I am in favor of taking logical steps and it does not seem to me to leave things in half, it does not seem correct to me. Now, that’s my advice, but the decision is his. Decisions always have to be made by the coach. The player’s environment is there to advise and give our point of view. Hopefully it ends in a great way in Barcelona.

Pepe Sánchez helped Bolmaro connect with other Argentine basketball figures such as Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, with whom he already shared the Argentine team (Bahía Basket)
Pepe Sánchez helped Bolmaro connect with other Argentine basketball figures such as Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, with whom he already shared the Argentine team (Bahía Basket)
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– What benefit does it have for Argentine basketball that we have had a player again in the NBA Draft, who has been chosen in the first round and by a franchise like Minnesota?

– The benefit is enormous. Especially if now Facu (Campazzo) is also stepping on the NBA. It would be to have two players and as for Facu, he is the most solid player that national basketball has in recent times. And in Leandro’s case, in addition to the projection, they are two charismatic, extroverted people, which greatly influences young people. More in the times in which we live today, especially with the school that we have to come, that there are players who are there, stepping on the NBA as well. Let’s see, look at younger boys, who no longer saw the Ginobili, the Scola, who today are playing in the Argentine league and have the conditions to dream. And in general, Argentine basketball continues to draw talent. And it seems to me that it is tremendous that Pablo Prigioni is also there as a coach, in addition to everything the National Team has done in the last World Cup in China.

– The arrival of Campazzo to the NBA is about to fall. It seems that a story that we were all waiting for him to give in recent times is ending

– The truth is that I feel great happiness for Facu. Because he has fought everything he has done in his career to have it. It is not easy in this world to measure a meter 70 and coins and he made his way based on his talent, his effort and his head, which is what makes the difference. He has a really privileged head and he’s going to be where he needs to be, which is with the best players in the world.. I see the NBA like this: to be able to live it from the inside, not so much because of the show that is spectacular, but because the best are there. And I think Leandro is also destined to be with the best. And I think there are several other guys who are too.

– Who are the ones who will join the NBA in the near future?

– In the short term, Gabriel Deck and Luca Vildoza, without a doubt. They are players who belong to that elite. And behind are very interesting players. There is talent and, as I always say, the best are yet to come. When you already create culture and it is in the collective unconscious that it is a possibility, that happens. That is why the journey from our arrival and all those who came after was so important. If you were born in a country that had no NBA players, it is very difficult to get there because there is no culture.


From “uncoordinated chick” to super athlete: the surprising story of Leandro Bolmaro, the best-placed Argentine in the history of the NBA Draft

Behind the scenes of Bolmaro’s NBA pick: his reaction and animated comparison to Messi and Ginobili

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