Last week, Rob Orellana, the director of the Canarias Basketball Academy, located in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands, led a delegation of students and staff on a week-long visit to the East Coast of the United States. This was the second annual visit to the United States for senior students of the basketball school. The students practiced in the Rose Hill Gym of Fordham University in the Bronx for three days.
The group then traveled to Rhode Island to participate in a prep school tournament. The students and staff returned to New York City on the weekend for a round of sightseeing. Orellana said the trip had several purposes, to play basketball on U.S. soil, which most had never done, expose the youngsters to the eyes of U.S. scouts and give the players the experience of seeing New York City and the East Coast.
Orellana is an experienced basketball coach with many years of experience of coaching in the United States. He was an assistant coach at Division I colleges on both U.S. coasts, St. Francis in Brooklyn, Farleigh Dickinson in New Jersey and in California at the University of California-Irvine and the University of California-Fullerton. He also coached youngsters on the high school level and internationally in Venezuela.
In 2004, Orellana left his position in California to follow his dream of founding a basketball school overseas where he could help international players gain a scholarship to Division I colleges in the U.S. His first effort in this regard gave him the knowledge and experience to begin the Canarias Basketball Academy three years ago. Spain’s archipelago may seem a strange place to develop talented basketball players, but thus far,
Orellana has been successful. After his team’s game against Monroe, Orellana explained, “It was always a dream of mine to establish a basketball academy. We [CBA] offer an alternative to U.S. prep schools. Ninety per cent of our boys are looking for a scholarship to U.S. universities and ten per cent are hoping to play professionally in Europe. This experience has given me my greatest satisfaction. These are great kids. They have no baggage. They only want to play basketball and improve.” Approximately 30 of the 50 current students are from the United Kingdom. The director said, “We’ve had great success with U.K. players.”
The U.K.’s Danny Thompson is one of the British successes. After two years at the CBA, Thompson was given a scholarship to Fordham University in the Bronx this fall. Thompson reacted to the news with exuberance, “Everything about Fordham University excites me,…getting a world class education, living in New York City and playing in the Atlantic 10.”
He spoke with gratitude of his experience at the CBA, “My two years at CBA have been great. I can’t imagine being more prepared for the next level. I want to thank CBA for what they’ve done. People have all kinds of opinions about CBA but unless you’ve lived it, you can never understand how valuable it is.”
Thompson was joined at Fordham this season by a second CBA alum, Farho Alihodzic. The Bosnian native was a member of Great Britain’s U20 National Team. The 6-10 post-player has started several games as a Fordham freshman this season. An additional one dozen CBA students were given Division I scholarships to U.S. colleges during the past two years.
On Saturday, February 6, after a contest with Charlotte, Fordham’s head coach, Jared Grasso, spoke very enthusiastically of Orellna and the CBA, “Their coach [Orelllna] was an assistant coach when I played in the NEC. We developed a very close relationship. He does an excellent job over there. He’s very good at what he does. They hold three practices a day.”
He explained the reasons why CBA students make a fine fit at Fordham, “In Fordham, you could recruit in Europe because you can sell New York City and our fine education.” Grasso’s strongest words of praise for the CBA were, “I would send my son there.”