Aday Mara has already accomplished some big things in his young career and the U18 Casademont Zaragoza big man draws inspiration from someone else from the northeastern Spanish city who has reached big heights early as well - Carlos Alocen.
Mara finds inspiration from fellow Zaragoza native Alocen
Mara had some highs and lows at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Varese. He collected 7.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks for an average performance index rating of 11.5 Those stats ranked him eighth in rebounds and first in blocks as one of the most talented big man prospects in Varese.
A major reason Mara was able to shine was his experience from the ANGT Istanbul last season, when he posted 8.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks despite being two years younger than the rest of the competition.
“Last year’s ANGT helped me a lot mentally. Since I already had the experience of facing a high level of competition, my concentration off the court grew and that helped me to be more focused on it,” said Mara, whose best game in Varese saw him tally 14 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists for an index rating of 25 against U18 AX Armani Exchange Milan.
The ANGT Varese is Mara’s second major highlight this season - the first coming on November 17 when he made his Zaragoza first team debut in the FIBA Europe Cup.
“When the game started, I thought I would play 1 or 2 minutes at the end of the game. When [head coach] Jaume [Ponsarnau] called me to go in, I got really surprised because the game was at the beginning and it was tied. I started really nervous, but then I get used to it,” said Mara, who finished with 2 points and 2 rebounds in 7 minutes against Reggio Emilia.
The big man said playing in that game was a great experience and serves as a major motivation for him.
“To play and practice at that level helps me a lot. The game is faster and harder and every mistake is penalized. You need to be more focused on the game to take better and faster decisions when playing,” he said.
Zaragoza is a club that does not shy away from putting in young players if they are ready. Alocen is the club’s youngest debutant at 15 years and 10 months and the third-youngest player in Spanish League history. He served as Zaragoza’s captain at just 18 years of age and in the summer of 2019 signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid.
“What Carlos did is really difficult. To play in the ACB is really difficult, but to perform like him and at such an important club, is even more difficult,” Mara said of Alocen, who is spending his second season with Real but is currently out for the season injured. “He is an inspiration and makes me also want to do what he did. Thanks to that, I am working even harder to achieve it.”
Just like Alocen, Mara not only hails from Zaragoza but he has sports in his blood. His father, Francisco Javier Mara, played in the Spanish League for Zaragoza while his mother Angelica Gomez was one of Spain’s best volleyball players, competing for many years on the national team.
“My mother, and my father as well, help me a lot off the court. Her advice from her competitive experiences is really helpful,” said Mara, who was already 2.18 meters tall at 16 years of age. “What they insist the most is to play without pressure, focus on having fun when going on the court and take advantage of these experiences that make me grow as a player and person.”
Armed with bloodlines of two athletes as parents, a club that gives youngsters chances to shine and inspiration from a EuroLeague player from his same city, Aday Mara should expect a career full of highlights.