"Those titles have been the result of a long and hard sacrifice that we have made to obtain them. It goes without saying that they are also a motivation for me to convince myself that nothing is impossible,” he said.
Guzman admitted he doesn’t really know the 32-year-old Sant Roos or 37-year-old Bartolo. But he talks a lot to Rivero and Justiz, who are 29 and 30, respectively.
"When we talked, we always talked about doing the impossible to put Cuban basketball on the map and to keep climbing levels in Europe," Guzman said.
Just like Rivero and Justiz, Guzman left Cuba for South America to start his journey, starting at age 22 in the Argentinian second division for Juninense in the 2017-18 season before moving up to top-flight side Olimpico de La Banda.
"For me, it was an opportunity, a step forward in my career. Professionally I felt ready for this kind of change and I also knew that economically I would be able to earn more and to help my family," Guzman said.
He stayed there for two more seasons before leaving for Europe - just like Rivero and Justiz who left Argentina for Burgos in 2019 and Zaragoza in 2018, respectively.
Guzman is proud that people back home see him as a role model.
"It means a lot to me when young athletes from another generation see me as an example to follow. It means that I am a pure example of sacrifice, willpower and dedication to the work and the sport that we love. If I could do it, why not them?" he said.
Guzman already sees the level of Cuban basketball rising. He has been playing for the national team since 2014 and even though the team went 0-6 in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers, Cuba performed well.
The biggest highlight was leading against the United States by 11 points late in the first quarter on November 28, 2021, and it was tied with 3 minutes left before eventually losing 95-90.
"That game was the best and the one I enjoyed the most with the national team because it's no secret that the United States national team always beats us by more than 50 points in all the previous games we had. Playing in that way and achieving that final result showed us that we are on the right track," said Guzman, who had 18 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals in that game.
Cuba also was tied early in the fourth quarter in the game in Puerto Rico before losing 69-60 and led at home over Puerto Rico with 5 minutes to play in a 65-62 defeat.
"The results and the change we have achieved say it all. When I started playing for the national team, all those teams used to beat us by a minimum of 40 points, and seeing that now anyone on the court can win against them is a personal pride of how we have been able to improve the level of the Cuban basketball national team in one way or another."
One further highlight for Guzman came in the quarterfinals of the Basketball Champions League last season when Cluj ousted Ludwigsburg 2-1 to reach the Final Four. It was a chance for Guzman to play against his compatriot Bartolo.
"I don't have many opportunities to play against another Cuban here in Europe as Americans do… That's why I think it was incredible to see how the two of us fought professionally for victory on the court, and I hope to have that opportunity again with him or with other players," he concluded.
Karel Guzman is definitely helping put Cuba on the world basketball map.