At the end of 2019, life was smiling at Patrick Garino. Enjoyed a good present in the baskonia Spanish and the memory of the great individual and collective performance with the Argentine team in the China World Cup, where the silver medal was hung. But on November 22, during a Euroleague game with his team, he suffered a torn cruciate ligament in his right knee, which, looking back, marked the beginning of two and a half years of torment, in which he spent more hours in rehab than on the court. In that period of time, in that right leg he had a problem in the menisci that forced him to undergo surgery in October 2020, a hamstring injury in August 2021, during the Tokyo Games, and one in the thigh last January, whose rehabilitation lasted longer than expected and led him to terminate his contract with Nanterre of France, to which he had arrived after the Olympic event, after going through the Zalgiris Kaunas from Lithuania.
That bad streak was consuming his desire, his strength and his head and, after disassociating himself from his last club, with which he played just 8 games in the local league, he found himself without motivation to start over. At odds with basketball, he traveled to Argentina to reunite with his family and his friends, whom he had not seen since before the pandemic, and the weeks he spent in the country reminded him of what sport means to him. With renewed energy, he returned to Spain to face a deep rehabilitation of that leg that gave him so many headaches and today, shortly after his 29th birthday, he dreams of putting on the light blue and white shirt again… perhaps in a few months .
“Basketball became my passion again, it’s me, I rediscovered my love for the sport. Maybe a little while ago I didn’t want to see it, I was in denial, I didn’t understand it and I didn’t want to understand it. And today I know that I’m a basketball player. And I’m what I am thanks to that”, he told Clarion from Madrid, days after returning to training on a court. “I was angry with the ball for almost a month. A month and a half without touching it. But when I came back I was surprised, because very quickly I returned to what I was.”
Garino -who before coming to Baskonia played college basketball in the United States for the George Washington University and had a brief stint in the NBA in 2017 (he did the preseason with the spursbut did not make the final squad, and then signed with the Magicwith whom he only played five games) – does not regret having left Nanterre to focus one hundred percent on his recovery.
“It is a rare situation to be without a team and training alone in the middle of a season. But stopping and focusing on this leg that had been bringing so many problems was the right decision. Today I have the peace of mind of being without pressure and without tight times to return to compete. And that is being seen in the evolution that I am having physically. I know that if one is well in the head, everything is much more bearable”, he commented.
-Beyond the physical recovery, how would you describe the last few months emotionally?
They were a roller coaster. At times, low, logically. At times, of neutrality, of indifference. Others, angry. And some of happiness, but very little related to basketball. They were not easy, at least until I returned home. Because after leaving the French team, I came to Spain to undergo treatment and my idea was to return to training in Argentina, but I realized that I did not have much mental strength to return to the courts. I really missed my family and friends who I hadn’t seen since almost the middle of 2019. So I went there and spent about 25 days enjoying myself, freeing my head and taking a break from training, something I hadn’t even done before. during those times he was injured. And then I returned to Madrid with my head set on recovery.
Garino, third from the right, on the World Cup podium. Photo REUTERS/Kim Kyung Hoon
What changed on that trip?
I rediscovered what I like. I was able to go see several games of some friends and there I remembered why I started playing basketball and where I came from and grew up. And seeing the atmosphere that exists in the matches in Argentina, the reception of the people and the affection, gave me a lot of energy and much more strength and peace of mind.
Yes, because when I came to Madrid to do the treatment, the truth is, the motivation to play basketball was not there. And he didn’t show up until I got home. That and the support of my family and Paula, my wife, who goes through everything with me, gave me the strength to focus on something other than the negative, which is the most difficult.
-Did you think about retirement at some point?
I’d be lying if I told you no. Sometimes it haunted me, especially in moments of downturn. But it was never a very strong or aggressive thought. I think I felt it more in the past. Years ago, before the injury to the Crusader, I had a sprained knee and I had considered giving up everything, I wanted to go home, I was quite tired. (NdR: It was also on the right, in November 2018, he spent almost two months without playing and in the first game of his return, he suffered a right calf strain). But today, with the experience of all these situations, with the help of the psychologist and the family, luckily I could get rid of that thought quickly. Leaving basketball forever never turned my head.
Garino suffered an injury to his right hamstring in the duel against Spain, for the Tokyo 2020 quarterfinals. Photo Gregory SHAMUS/AFP
-What you experienced in recent years with injuries, did it change the way you think or approach the sport?
It made me see that sport is quite unfair and ungrateful. But at the same time I realized that I am not what I am without basketball, for all the good and for all the bad. Luckily I didn’t have a moment of pure slump, of being broke. Although I did feel different. When I was with the national team in Las Vegas or Tokyo, for example, I didn’t feel like the usual Pato, joking around, chatting, making jokes. I was much more serious, maybe with a little more pressure on it. At times I was angry with basketball, I couldn’t watch it, it made me angry that I couldn’t keep up. But today those feelings are already quite fixed. I found my passion again.
The selection, the objective for this 2022
“The evolution has been very positive,” said Garino about the recovery process that he is carrying out in Madrid. “I’ve been working in the gym, specifically focused on the leg, for a month or so. And now I’m starting to do a little bit of one-on-one basketball at a training center, with a physical trainer and an individual technique coach. And The truth is, everything is going very well.”
-What did you feel when you stepped on a court again?
It caught me quite by surprise, because it came a bit suddenly. She had an established and progressive work plan, but the evolution had been so good that we were able to speed up the times a bit, and from one day to the next a little message came that said ‘Tomorrow you play one on one’. Going back was totally pleasant. Beyond that at the beginning, there was a bit of nerves or mistrust of making a wrong move. But once I gained confidence, I felt full again. And at one point he became wanting to win again and not think about his leg. I know I still have a long way to go, but it fills my body with joy and motivates me to keep fighting.
With Nanterre de France he only played 8 games before getting injured in January. Instagram photo @patogarino
-What are the next steps?
Continue working. The goal is to get back to racing soon if possible, obviously being careful not to accelerate badly. I want to prepare to be in the windows of the selection, if they call me or take me into account.
-Don’t you think about playing in a club again yet?
The truth is that rushing back to a team at this stage of the playoffs, in which you play at 150 percent, I don’t think it’s beneficial for my body, my head or for any club. If the national team doesn’t happen this year, I’ll aim to prepare for next season, put all the effort and desire to have a team again and compete without any physical problem.
The next commitments of the men’s team are the two qualifying windows for the 2023 Philippines, Japan and Indonesia World Cup, in which they will face Venezuela, on June 30, and Panama, on July 3. Those matches will close out the first phase, after which the top three from each group will advance to the next phase, which begins in August. The team led by Nestor Garcia running second in zone A.
In addition, from September 2 to 11, he will play the AmeriCup in Brasilia and Recife (Brazil), in which they will join group B with the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
“When I started training, the level of basketball was non-existent (laughs). But the wrist pleasantly surprised me. And after different movements, I realized that the body does have memory. Logically, I lack a lot of physique, strength and explosiveness, but I feel very capable. My plan is to be ready to play in mid-June, logically with the lack of filming, of playing 5 against 5, but totally available. Everything is outlined in a work plan. Hopefully it will be can respect”, closed Garino.
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Patricio Garino: the Olympian who got angry with basketball and now wants to meet his best version again