By John Askounis/ email@example.com
Fresh off Howard Sant-Roos’ departure, Cuba retains a solid grip on Basketball Champions League procedures. Javier Justiz was ruled out for the season by Casademont Zaragoza and Jasiel Rivero’s San Pablo Burgos is still in the hunt for a Round of 16 berth, but Yorman Polas Bartolo and Telekom Baskets Bonn clinched their playoffs berth on Tuesday.
“I would prefer not be the only Cuban in the playoffs,” the 34-year-old swingman pointed out to Eurohoops, “But I am proud of making the playoffs for the first time and representing the country myself. It is an honor to play at one of the highest European levels.”
At 34, Polas Bartolo is going through his fourth campaign with Bonn. With the German outlet participated in its previous three BCL runs, but never before went beyond the Regular Season. With one game left, home-court advantage is the target with the playoffs ticket punched in thanks to Tuesday’s home victory over JDA Dijon.
“I’m really happy” he told Eurohoops regarding the Round of 16 berth, “We ranked ourselves among the best Basketball Champions League teams. We did not make it the last couple of years, but if we continue in our current form we can go far in the competition. Our main focus is to extend our run as much as possible.”
Third run a treat
Following a couple of qualifying games, the German side and Polas Bartolo made their Champions League Regular Season debut in the 2017-18 season. Five wins were not enough for a spot better than seventh place in Group D. Six wins the following season landed sixth place in Group B and the transfer to FIBA Europe Cup.
Massive improvement this time around. Bonn is up 8-5 in Group D. A road game versus eliminated PAOK is left. Winning next week will secure home-court advantage for the Round of 16, maybe even first place if other results fall its way. However, a loss at Thessaloniki can result into a fourth-place finish, again depending on the outcomes of other matches.
“Congratulations to the team and the organization,” took out head coach Thomas Pach commenting on progressing to the next round, “This is a very big success.”
Controlling its own fate comes from the Cuban-German pouring a season-high 22 points and falling three points shy from his personal-high on Tuesday evening. In just over 31 minutes of work made 7/9 inside the rainbow, 2/2 three-pointers and sank both of his free throws. Also tallied seven rebounds, one steal and one dime.
“We have to do this every game,” said Alec Brown during the postgame press conference after posting eight points, five boards and a couple of assists, “We have to come out with this energy every game.”
From Cuba to Germany
Born in Camaguey, Cuba on August 8th, 1985, Polas Bartolo was 27 when he jumped on the opportunity of moving to Germany. Made his way from the lower divisions to top-tier competition and gained the German citizenship in 2015 as a member of the Giessen 46ers. Went on to join Bonn prior to the 2016-17 season, played in FIBA Europe Cup in his first season and from that point on with his vast experience helped his team in BCL. “My goal was to work my way up to the first division,” he stated in an older interview commenting on the effort to establish himself in Germany.
On 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals per appearance through eleven Regular Season games so far, Polas Bartolo has stocked up his all-around contribution. His season-high in points opposite to Dijon powered Bonn to the Round of 16 despite trailing for most of the Gameday 13 tilt.
Approach to the game
Latest performance states otherwise, but making things happen offensively is not his main attribute. He was named easyCredit BBL Best Defender in 2018 and 2019 helping Bonn advance to the playoffs in both seasons. The 2019-20 season forms a much different picture with his team only 3-13 and 16th out of 17 clubs.
“It’s very important to succeed in both leagues,” mentioned Polas Bartolo to Eurohoops on juggling the German League with Champions League, “I will always give my best for the club, the fans, my city and my country, make them proud of me.”
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League