EuroLeague Academy, working to develop grassroots basketball at schools across various cities in Europe, took another step in that process by participating in the presentation of the Copa Colegial tournament at Colegio El Pilar in Valencia, Spain on Thursday.
Valencia Basket stars Fernando San Emeterio, Alberto Abalde and Leticia Romero – of Valencia's women team – joined the opening event of this year's 18th edition of the school tournament, which attracts more than 5,000 student participants from 200 schools in nine major Spanish cities, including five whose local clubs play in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague or the 7DAYS EuroCup: Madrid, Barcelona, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Valencia and Malaga. A second presentation will be held on Friday in Madrid, which will have as many as 64 schools participating in both categories.
"I played in Copa Colegial with my classmates and friends, defending the colors of my school, and from that, I have good memories that will last for a lifetime," Abalde said.
"Copa Colegial is a very beautiful project because the mix of basketball and friendship and fun and education through sport is very positive in the formation of children," San Emeterio said. "I just regret that this competition did not exist when I was that age. I would love to have played in it."
"For me, Copa Colegial was an unforgettable experience," Romero said. "This model of formation through sports brings you to learn many things on a sporting level, but above all, it helps form you as a person and helps you to value yourself."
Euroleague Basketball and Fundacion Baloncesto Colegial, which runs the Copa Colegial, are in a five-year partnership that aims to increase the importance and presence of basketball among students. Together, they aim to offer young people the unique experience of representing their schools on the court and bonding through basketball with fellow students. The Copa Colegial finals take place in Valencia from May 22 to 24.
"We are very happy to begin our third year of collaboration with Copa Colegial and to keep on making the experience of these girls and boys as powerful as possible with the support of Euroleague Basketball players and clubs," said Abigail Martin, Euroleague Basketball's Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Development Projects.
"I have been part of Copa Colegial for almost nine years and I believe that both Copa Colegial and EuroLeague Academy are important for the development not only of basketball but of kids' personalities, as well," Joe Arlauckas, Euroleague Basketball Ambassador and Copa Colegial Ambassador, said. "It gives them an ability to form friendships and learn how to be healthy and be connected to sport."
In Spain, anticipation for the school basketball season is felt nationwide, with the Copa Colegial offering young people the tournament itself, which advances from municipal to national elimination rounds for both male and female players; an all-star game; the award for the best student-athlete; and even a place in the school basketball hall of fame, which held its latest enshrinement ceremony in December. In 2020, Copa Colegial will be played in nine cities across Spain and features 211 schools and more than 6,800 players, male and female, playing over 700 games.
In addition to its cooperation with Copa Colegial in Spain, EuroLeague Academy organized tournaments in Athens, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Vitoria-Gasteiz during its inaugural 2018-19 campaign, with the goal to expand the number of tournaments each season.