Jaime Echenique, or as former player John Lucas dubbed it, “Baby Duncan”, wrote a new page in the history of Colombian basketball: He became the first player from that country to act in the top league in the United States, after playing three minutes in last night’s game for the Washington Wizards, who defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-93. He is 24 years old and full of illusions.
His debut came as a surprise. It is that Echenique had been working in the subsidiary that the team from the American capital has in the G League. But the absences caused by the Covid-19 hastened their ascent, and jumped onto the court. Then, his debut came on the same day that he was signed by the Wizards, as an emergency reinforcement against casualties. Like so many other temporary signings these days, he was able to fulfill his dream of seeing action in the best league in the world. And the surprising thing, on this occasion, is not only the personal dream that he fulfilled, but also the milestone that he marked for an entire country.
“It has been an incredible day”, summarized the native of Barranquilla in the press conference after the meeting. “I am simply happy for me, for my family, for my country and for the people who believed in me,” he added, visibly moved and almost shedding tears. And he thanked the Wizards for the opportunity they have given him: “Right now it just goes through my mind to keep working, keep exploiting my abilities, keep believing in me. This is neither the end nor the beginning: this is the continuation of all the work that I have done throughout my career ”, he explained. Then closed: “Yes, it is worth dreaming.”
His story, like that of many Colombian athletes who reach the highest level, is no exception: it is full of curiosities. Before dedicating himself to this discipline, he confessed that he was bad at basketball; Although everything took a different turn when on vacation her clothes began to be too small because her growth had skyrocketed to the level of translating into an increase in height of four inches in three months.
But the radical change in height didn’t get him to the basketball courts overnight. In fact, Echenique first tried baseball. Until he was 11 years old, he played first base in the Eleventh of November, a local club. Although, later, he entered the world he knows best today: he played on the basketball teams of El Colegio Colegio Pestalozzi and the Academia de la Montaña club. Years later, he made the leap to the United States, where he attended a Junior College in Texas until he enrolled in Wichita State. In four years he graduated in sociology and psychology after shining in the NCAA in a stage in which he was baptized as ‘Baby Duncan’ by John Lucas, famous former player and former NBA player.
And last night, he did it. Echenique, who once knew how to tell the newspaper The viewer that he was “bad, very bad and perverse”, he entered in the fourth half of the game and helped his quintet to obtain the victory against Cleveland, but the result is not what does not matter, because the impact is on him He left the doors a little more open to his compatriots who want to follow in his footsteps.
In the meeting, his contribution was not very significant. The party sheet marked zero in its statistics. In the midst of the hardships caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Wizards leaders summoned him to sign for 10 days after the workforce was depleted. But of course, what matters, now, was having arrived.
This Saturday, when his team meets the Chicago Bulls, Echenique will be an option. Same thing on Monday, January 3, when the Wizards face the Charlotte Hornets.
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Jaime Echenique, the young man who grew 10 centimeters in three months and became the first Colombian to play in the NBA