Updated: Jan 9
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series presented by Babcock Hoops, we have Santiago Vescovi, from Montevideo, Uruguay:
Prospective Insight: How has your experience been with NBA Academy so far? I know you have a little bit of a different journey.
Santiago Vescovi: It’s been a really great experience. I’ve been (with them) for a year and a half with the NBA Academy, I think it’s a really great project. It helps international athletes basketball-wise and to grow up academically and I think it helped me out a lot. I first got into Latin American NBA Academy in March last year and very recently I went to NBA Global Academy - so I think I it was a big change, but I think it’s really good and it’s going to make me grow up faster.
PI: So you’ve only been in Australia for a few months, and you grew up in Uruguay, so where do you prefer living of all of the places you’ve lived?
SV: I mean if I had to choose I would always choose Uruguay because my family is there and my friends are there, but I mean I know what my goal is and where I want to go so if it takes me like making big sacrifices like coming here or going to Australia, I’m going to take them because I know where I want to go.
PI: How many languages do you speak? Which was the hardest to learn?
SV: Three - Spanish is my native language...and I also speak English and Portuguese. Spanish was my native, Portuguese is similar to Spanish so it was a little easier, and English I’ve been learning it since I was like five years old so it wasn’t that hard.
PI: What have been some of the biggest things you’ve taken away from NBA Global Academy since your time with them?
SV: I think, first of all talking about off the court and learning how to live far from home... I think it’s one of the biggest things the Academy gave me, because you’ve got to learn to adapt yourself to where you are. When I got to the Latin America Academy, I had to adapt myself to the mindset of “this is my new family.” I had to learn how to deal and take advantage of players around me and weave it all together and try to use that as a family. I mean, when you’re down or whoever is down, having your teammates as a family that you can rely on - that’s one of the biggest things the Academy gave me. Also, basketball-wise I think it was getting my shooting percentage up and reading the game more.
PI: For those who don’t know your game as much, describe it - what are your biggest strengths as a player?
SV: I think my game has really become good at reading situations, like how the floor is spaced, where the defender is,stuff like that. I can shoot 3s or 2s. I can attack the rim, I’m still developing my athleticism, but I don’t know...I think I’m a smart guy on the court and that’s why I’m also a point guard.
PI: What’s another area aside from your athleticism you want to improve on?
SV: I want to improve, probably my shooting percentage...also I want to improve a little more on the right hand.
PI: So for people who do know your game, what would you tell them is the most underrated part of your game? What do you not get enough credit for that you think you’re really good at?
SV: I mean I think the answer would be my ability to read the game - my IQ - because I really feel that the higher the level is I can still play there...not talking about the physicality and stuff, but yes on the mental side of the game.
PI: Have you always played point guard?
SV: Yes, I mean when I was back in Uruguay I played a little shooting guard because I was kind of big on my team and there were people smaller than me so they needed to be point guard.
PI: What’s your preferred type of system to play in?
SV: European - I really like the European way over the AAU or American game which is more one-on-one. I really prefer passing and cutting and stuff...more motion and movement...that is the way that I was raised back in Uruguay.
PI: Overall, on your team and other teams which players stood out to you in Atlanta at the Academy Games?
SV: Mo King was one that I feel really stood out...Josh Giddey also stood out...Aly Khalifa has been good, too
PI: I know you’ve talked about your journey a little bit, but talk about your life in basketball and off the court leading up to joining NBA Academy...how did you get here?
SV: I was back in Uruguay and I always knew I wanted to play basketball...and I got to a point where I realized that if I wanted to play basketball my whole life, I could just keep playing in Uruguay, but if I wanted more exposure, there are good levels outside of my country and if I wanted to be like the best player I can be I think it wasn’t the best thing for me to stay in Uruguay. I talked to my parents and was like “ok, I want to go to the United States.” My first thought was to go to the United States to play high school, and my parents talked to people and they got with a contact that said “ok, I’ll see what I can do for Santi, but first I want to see him in the Bahamas,” because first they invited me in July 2017 to BWB and that was in the Bahamas. So I just went to Bahamas. I was like two years younger than everyone and I think I did good for my age...I made it to the all-star game, so the last day the camp ended I think there were like three NBA people there and the guy we were talking to - my parents’ contact - came and told me, “ok, we know you want to go to the US, but we want to invite you to our Latin American Academy that’s going to open in Mexico next year.” It was like in January or I don’t know what time, and I was like, “ok, cool.” So that’s how I got invited!
PI: You were playing there for over a year, and then you had the opportunity to go to Australia?
SV: Yes, I played there for a year and 3 months and then I moved to Australia.
PI: We talked a little about it earlier, but what are your short and long term goals?
SV: My short term goal is that I want to be constant...and what I mean by constant is that I want to improve every day...that’s a short term goal for me, but it’s a constant because I will always have it. Also, I want to make it to D1 in NCAA college...I’m already having some interest and some talkings. Talking about long term goals, I mean if I could make it to the NBA, perfect, but if not, then I mean I just want to be the best player I can be, no matter if I make it to the NBA, Europe, Uruguay, whatever, I just want to be the best I can be.
PI: What do you take into consideration the most when looking at colleges?
SV: I mean right now I’m just focusing on developing my game and also talking about colleges, like, I mean I’m looking for a high level college that’s serious about basketball; also, I want to go to a place where I can play because it’s not worth going to a really big place if I’m not playing. I think I could play anywhere. And also academically, like I think that all of the colleges in the U.S. have good academics, but it’s important to me, as well.
PI: Do you wear a specific jersey number and is there any reason or story behind it?
SV: I used to back in Uruguay, but now I’m a little bit confused because I’m using a couple of different jerseys. So, when I was back in Uruguay I always played with #15. I was like a little kid, my first time on the team I was like eight or nine years old, when they asked what number I wanted to be...I first asked for #9 because that’s my grandfather’s old jersey. His jersey is retired in Uruguay and they told me that someone already had it so I couldn’t play with that one so I took #15, so from there I always used #15 in my team club or national team and I was #15 always. When I came to Latin (NBA Academy), the #15 was size XXL so it wouldn’t fit me so I had to choose a little smaller because the smaller the number the smaller the jersey size, so I chose #4 and I was playing #4 the whole time I was playing Latin America and when I got to NBA Global, I got the #5 training jersey because that’s what they had, but when we came here I asked for #9 and I got it. I finally got it!
PI: So it was to honor your grandfather - that’s pretty cool. Can you talk about him a little bit?
SV: Yes, I think he’s been a really big influence on me in terms of basketball. When I was back in Uruguay he was always going to my games, watching them, and at the end of my games he would tell me what I’d need to improve on and I always appreciated that because he made me realize things that I didn’t see. My father and my uncle and whole family did this, too, but he was the one who told me the most and he was also trying to make me better in basketball on the court and in terms of like mental, as well. One thing that I always wanted to do, but never could was playing one-on-one against him, but he has a knee problem, so we couldn’t. Also, another thing I always wanted was to watch him play, but I never could, but that’s one thing that I always wanted.
PI: Have you seen video of him playing?
SV: No, there’s no video, he’s from the time before where there was no video footage.
PI: So he’s a legend?
SV: Yeah, he made it to the national team when he was really young...he was like 17 years old.
PI: When did you get your first opportunity with the national team?
SV: This summer.
PI: What are five words that best describe you?
SV: Great teammate, smart, personable, hard-working, driven.
PI: Who do you model your game after?
SV: I mean that’s Ginobili...I really want to copy him not only in basketball, but the way he thinks. He’s a really smart guy, he has everything clear in life and in basketball he was a really great player...he’s also a lefty so I don’t know what to call it, but I can take him as a role model, so it would be Ginobili for his way of playing, what he’s been doing in the NBA, and also the way he thinks off the court - I think that’s the most important thing he has.
PI: At the end of the day what do you want to be remembered for?
SV: I want to be remembered for...hmm... the same that comes to my mind when I think about Manu Ginobili - both basketball-wise and off the court, like the way he thinks and I think it’s really admirable.