Monday, December 16, 2013
For those of you who have had the pleasure of watching Ivan Gandia play basketball one of the many things that sticks out is that he looks like he is playing in slow motion. He is a lefty so everything he does looks different but the result is always the same. Gandia makes plays and now he is learning to be a true playmaker by making those around him better. The 6'1 Class of 2016 PG is doing his thing at high school powerhouse Huntington Prep. He decided to transfer late this summer after having an incredible run with the PR 16U National Team. IPRB caught up with Gandia in between taking midterms. Q: You were one of the last kids from the 2016 PR Playmakers Team to decide to go to the states. Why did you decide to leave? A: It will challenge me in all aspects of my life. In the basketball court, academically and also in life because I had to leave friends, family and old school to be here. Q: Moving from Puerto Rico to West Virginia is a huge jump. What is living in West Virginia like? A: It's a lot different. Moving from a tropical island in PR to West Virginia where it gets to cold sometimes was hard. Hopefully I'm adapting well to the weather. Also, the people are so nice so sometimes I feel like I'm home. Q: You had a great summer playing for the 16U National team. You led the team in scoring and proved you could play against the best players in the world. What was that experience like? A: It was a great experience playing against the best players in America. Especially against the USA. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Q: A lot of young players are leaving Puerto Rico to go the states. Why do you think so many kids are leaving? A: The elite and best basketball is in the USA and better chances to go to college is better in USA. Q:You are playing with several high major D1 prospects at Huntington Prep. What is practice like everyday? A: In practice is where you earn your playing time and your spot on the team. In games we support and cheer for each other but practice is where you gotta show what you can do. Practicing with D1 prospects everyday shows me all the areas I have to get better when I have to guard people stronger quicker and better than me. Q: Huntington's Head Coach, Rob Fulford is a great guy and a really good coach. What have you learned from him since being there? A: I've learned that you gotta have pride in everything you do and play hard every time. Q: You talked about guarding players that are quicker and stronger then you. Is that one of the big differences playing at an elite level. In Puerto Rico most teams play zone. Was that an adjustment for you to learn to play man to man? A: Definitely. My last years in PR I played a little man to man but is totally different guarding man to man the whole game than just sometimes. Also guarding players quicker and stronger is a whole new level. Q: You never know how things may work out but you guys could end up playing St. Benedicts at the NHSI this year. Huntington didn't play in it last year but you guys are loaded with talent and should make a run at a National Championship. Have you spoken to Arnaldo, Nick, Josh or Edwin since you got t West Virginia. And if you play St. Benedicts do you think you will beat them? A: Unfortunately I haven't talked to them but if we play them I think we can beat them! Q: We got a hold of a video clip of you putting in work! . How cool was it to see yourself on a highlight video of your team? A: Well I felt really good because that is the second video of team highlights. Is a great experience. Q: You are playing this summer in the 17U World Championship. Your team has tons of talent. Do you think PR can win a World Championship this summer? A: We can get far in the tournament. We have a good team that can make damage. We definitely can be in the top spots. Q: PR Playmakers 16U is playing some live events this spring before you guys go play for the National Team. Are you going to play for PRP again this summer? Q: Hopefully I'll be there!
Chino Torres and his PR Hoops outfit have been bringing elite HS teams to play in Puerto Rico for years. This year is no exception with New Jersey's St. Benedicts Prep participating in the PR Hoops Christmas Tournament later this week. St. Benedicts is in a rebuilding year after graduating two potential NBA players in Mike Young (Pitt) and arguably the best freshman PG in the college, Tyler Ennis (Syracuse). Only two players return from last years team in 2014 PG Jon Williams and 2016 SF Nicholas Washington. Third year coach Mark Taylor has won over 70 games in his first three years at St. Benedicts and doesn't necessarily agree that this year is a rebuilding year, "If we stick together and play for each other we are going to surprise a lot of people. We play as tough a schedule as any team in the country. We control our own destiny", said Taylor via telephone. This years roster which includes 12 new players including 6'10 Lithuanian Norbertas Giga. The senior center recently signed to play in the ACC conference at Florida State. Senior PG Jonathan Williams signed with Shaka Smarts' VCU program. This years team will go as far as the two seniors take them. They are the bookends to this years team. In addition to Giga and Williams, the team has atleast 10 other Division 1 prospects including fellow seniors Elijah Cain, Damontas Pavloskis and Carl Brown, juniors Mark Thomas and Kamar Mcknight, sophmores Nick Washington, Josh Colon, Edwin Cancel and Arnaldo Toro and reclassified freshman sensation Trevon Duval. The question is not if the team has the size and talent to compete with anyone in the country but can Coach Taylor get this team to gel and perform at a very high level by the time January comes around. Taylor has proven in his first three years at St. Benedicts that he is capable of beating teams that have more talent and are ranked higher. This years team and its schedule may present his must difficult challenge since arriving at St. Benedicts. Last years team finished the season ranked #2 by ESPN while this years team is not ranked by ESPN and is only ranked in one of the top four national preseason polls. However, their schedule will provide several opportunities to prove they are one of the elite high school teams in the country. St Benedicts plays several preseason nationally ranked teams in January including #2 ranked Montverde Academy in a rematch of last years National Championship game January 3rd on ESPN, #18 ranked Arlington Country Day on ESPN at the Hoophall Classic on January 19th, #6 ranked White Station High School in Memphis on January 24th and #13 Roselle Catholic at the Prudential Center in New Jersey on the MSG Network, January 31st. The PR Hoops tournament starts local team play on Wednesday. St. Benedicts arrives Thursday afternoon and plays their first game Friday night. They don't know who their first opponent will be but nonetheless they are not going to take any of the teams from Puerto Rico lightly. Former St Johns School PG and St. Benedicts sophomore Nick Washington told IPRB, "Josh, Edwin, Arnaldo and I keep telling our teammates and coaches that there are some really good teams in Puerto Rico. This is a business trip for us. Anything less then a championship is a failure for us. And we know every team and coach that we play is going to do their best to beat us. For teams and players from Puerto Rico this is probably the biggest game they will play all year. Coach Taylor, Coach Farrell and Coach P are gonna have us focused on coming down there and handling business. We can't afford to lose a game because we will never hear the end of it from our friends and former coaches."