Shooters gonna shoot and Benite, Burgos will continue to eat, sleep, dream basketball
BURGOS (Spain) - Even when faced with the unprecedented situation of going through Spain's first weekend on lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, the priorities of a natural-born shooter like Vítor Benite are clear.
"Eat healthy, do some pushups or whatever exercise I can, and for sure watch a lot of basketball videos, watch a lot of Larry Bird, three-point contests and stuff like that, so I don't forget how to shoot the ball," the San Pablo Burgos guard told championsleague.basketball by way of describing his activities after Spain declared a state of emergency.
The coach gives me more minutes and lets me do different things, so I play more pick and roll, I have the ball in my hands, I am not just coming out of staggers and pin downs to shoot the ball - Vítor Benite
The very long list of uncertainties that this pandemic has created in our lives might keep expanding, but Benite ever forgetting how to shoot a basketball will definitely never make that list.
When the Basketball Champions League was suspended due to the outbreak, the Brazilian international was leading Burgos in efficiency rating and in scoring on a remarkable 46 percent shooting from three-point range, a league-high among players averaging over 6 three-point attempts per game.
"On other Spanish teams, a shooter like me will go on the court and get only a couple of opportunities and if you don't make those shots you're not going to play a lot of minutes," Benite said.
"In general, on Spanish teams each player has a role and it's difficult to get out of that role. So for example at Murcia, I only had a couple of situations that I would get the ball to score, I wouldn't play much pick n roll and I wouldn't bring the ball up on the fast break, or play one on one."
When we qualified to the BCL the city went crazy, you could see in everybody's faces in the street how happy they were - Vítor Benite
Benite's stats across the board are higher than in his previous season at Burgos, as well as in any of his three years at fellow Spanish side UCAM Murcia, including 2017-18 when they competed in the BCL .
"At Burgos, the coach [Joan Peñarroya] gives me more minutes and lets me do different things, so I play more pick and roll, I have the ball in my hands, I am not just coming out of staggers and pin downs to shoot the ball. This makes me more comfortable in different situations because I have a better feeling of the ball," the Brazilian said.
Murcia reached the 2018 Final Four and only narrowly lost in the Semi-Final to eventual champions AEK. Benite's valuable experience from that BCL campaign made him one of the best-qualified people at Burgos to judge the potential of a team that had to compete in Qualification Round 2 to make it to a European competition for the first time in its history.
"When we qualified to the BCL the city went crazy, you could see in everybody's faces in the street how happy they were," Benite said.
We were used to playing ACB games in a packed gym, but we never thought that we would have 10,000 people in the stands twice a week, at every game - Vítor Benite
"Burgos had basketball teams in the past but this club is very young, it's only been around for a few years, so nobody expected it to be playing in a European competition so early.
"But for me the most unbelievable thing is what happened afterwards, because we were used to playing ACB games in a packed gym, but we never thought that we would have 10,000 people in the stands twice a week, at every game.
"This city is not used to having a team in this position, that is playing in the Play-Offs, playing in Europe, going far in a big competition.
"So everything feels like a party, if the team is winning everybody is happy, even when we lose games everybody is happy that we did the best job we could.
"This is the thing about Burgos as a team and a city that is amazing and to be a player on this club in Europe makes it even better."
Our club and our president has huge ambitions, he wants to win the BCL and he wants us to be in the ACB play-offs, he is always thinking big - Vítor Benite
Burgos fans have already earned a reputation in such a short amount of time as one of the best crowds in Europe, so the fact they maintained their undying loyalty to their favorite team on both the domestic and the European front doesn't seem so surprising in hindsight.
To Benite, the fact Burgos made it all the way to the Play-Offs and knocked out Dinamo Sassari in the Round of 16 was not surprising either.
"I was not surprised at all, I was excited. I knew the team we had and with the players we signed in the summer I thought we had the possibility to reach the Play-Offs, go far and maybe even get to the Final Four," the 30-year-old Brazilian said.
"Of having the potential to do something and actually doing it are two different things, so of course we had to go through all the stages and do things right every step of the way.
In this stage of the competition you get to play the best teams and this is what is nice about it, if you want to compete at the highest level you have to play against the best - Vítor Benite
"The club made a huge effort to bring in good players, and to have a good structure in place. Our club and our president has huge ambitions, he wants to win the BCL and he wants us to be in the ACB play-offs, he is always thinking big.
"We know that the fans will support us no matter what happens, which is truly unbelievable, so the biggest pressure is coming from ourselves, because we know that with the players we have, we can do even better."
Nobody knows at this juncture when the suspension will end for Burgos to get their shot at advancing further in the BCL. What we do know though is that a huge hurdle stands in their way, as they are to face in the Quarter-Finals competition favorites Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, who also have the homecourt advantage.
To a true basketball fan, it is a mouth-watering matchup. Benite is first and foremost an unconditional basketball fan - and he can hardly wait for this series to get under way.
There are some coaches, especially now with the FIBA windows, who complain about having too many games and too much travel and this and that but hey, what makes us basketball players is playing games, not practicing endless hours every day - Vítor Benite
"Right now every team is going through a difficult period because we have to go without training, without anything, so every player has to be mentally strong, to keep our body in shape and to be ready if we go back in a few weeks, " the Burgos shooting guard said.
"But when this series finally starts, I think it's going to be a really good matchup both for us and for them because we are two offensive-minded teams who like to play with pace, shoot a lot of threes.
"I am really excited to play again one of the best teams in the competition and, if we get to play, I think they are going to be really amazing games.
"We know that we will have to play our best defense to take out their strengths, because they have so many good offensive players. It will be great for the fans to see these games - if they can!
"In this stage of the competition you get to play the best teams and this is what is nice about it, if you want to compete at the highest level you have to play against the best. "
Playing basketball is what I love to do and being tired is part of that, otherwise I would not be a competitive player - Vitor Benite
Benite's eagerness to play against a team that is tipped to win the trophy can only be fully understood through the lens of his love for the game and how he perceives his role in it. Despite having started the season as early as back in the summer with the Brazilian national team's preparations for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, it is literally impossible to ever hear Benite lamenting that he has to step out on a basketball court.
"Of course sometimes I suffer, it's normal to get tired, but it's the wrong mentality to go out and complain about that to the media or to the fans," Benite said.
"As a player, you have to be ready for that. We practice to the extreme and we train our bodies and our minds exactly to be stronger in those tough moments.
"There are some coaches, especially now with the FIBA windows [for the Qualifiers], who complain about having too many games and too much travel and this and that but hey, what makes us basketball players is playing games, not practicing endless hours every day.
"We have to play for the fans, this is our job, so if you have to cut hours then cut from practice and other stuff, not from the games. Practice less and play more. Playing basketball is what I love to do and being tired is part of that, otherwise I would not be a competitive player."