Queralt Casas (Bescanó, Girona; 1992) his legs trembled every time he went for a free kick last season. He would get on the line, dribble the ball and listen to an annoying hum in the Fuente de San Luis pavilion. Then he would throw and sometimes he didn’t even touch the hoop. Every time he went to shoot, the whispers of the Valencia Basket fans came to him, his fans. So recurrent was this, foul, miss, noise, that he decided not to force personal fouls so as not to have to shoot. One day, very close to hitting bottom, he was on the bench and begged Rubén Burgos not to take her out to play. He was panicking.
Today Queralt Casas overflows with confidence and leads Valencia Basket, especially in defense. Rubén Burgos’s team has dominated the regular season and for the first time will have the upper hand, with the tiebreaker at home, in the finals of the Endesa Women’s League, in a duel with Perfumerías Avenida, the champion in the previous two against the same rival, in what has already become the great women’s basketball classic of this decade. The first game will be this Thursday (at 8:00 p.m., Teledeporte) at La Fonteta. The second, on Sunday, in Salamanca. And if a third party were necessary, they would return to Valencia on Thursday. The charro team disputes its seventeenth consecutive final.
Last summer, when Queralt returned from vacation, Esteban Albert, the sports director of Valencia Basket, was waiting for her. “I had prepared myself mentally and speaking with him we set out to launch one handed. Be careful, I did not fail due to a mechanical issue, but the change helped me to start from scratch and break with the previous thing. With one hand he goes super straight and although it looks strange, the important thing is that he enters and, above all, that he does not stop playing my game by not going to the free kick. That’s how I agreed with Esteban and then, with Rubén (Burgos), I started doing a routine before each training session”.
It was not necessary to investigate much to raise the percentages of the escort: it has gone from 36.7% in the 21-22 season to 61.8% in the 22-23 season, its best average in Spain. Queralt already knew how to throw like that, but he was embarrassed. If people were already whispering when he went to the free kick, what would happen if he then caught and shot with one hand, something very unorthodox. When his head was strengthened with the help of a psychologist, he didn’t care. “What difference does it make how you throw? As if you throw a spoon, if it enters?
Queralt Casas was always an electric girl. At the age of four, her mother took her to see if she could enroll her in taekwondo, but her rules required that she be over five years old. That woman insisted and the coach let her do a test. When he came back for her, they told him he was inside her. “The milk that I had to distribute in there to convince that coach…”, laughs Queralt, who became a five-time Catalan taekwondo champion.
His career as a taekwondo player ended the day he went to the Blume, the residence for high-performance athletes in Barcelona that closed in 2015, to train with the Siglo XXI club. Queralt was only thirteen years old and still remembers the car trip with his father, the nerves, the fear of leaving his house. “But then I got there, I walked in the door and all the bad was over. I don’t have a traumatic memory of that. Maybe because I’ve been very independent since I was little.
There he trained with Ramón Jordana until he was 18 years old. Then other teams came and one year he signed for Galatasaray. There, in Istanbul, not understanding a word of Turkish and having a lot of trouble expressing himself in English, he was overwhelmed and collapsed. The Catalan was tempted to leave, but Núria Martínez, the Spanish point guard, encouraged her and endured. “That was the first time I felt bad. I didn’t speak the language, I was far from home, I was young and I took a liking to basketball. Without Núria Martínez I would not have endured ”.
Four years ago he landed in Valencia. The coach, Rubén Burgos, told him not to be in a hurry, but Queralt Casas finished the course as MVP. From day one she stood out as an exceptional advocate. It is her passion. “It has always freaked me out. As a child I was very badass. My goal was for the rival player not to cross the midfield line, and it motivated me to see her afraid to dribble. My father came to a training session when I was ten years old and he remembers that the coach gave me the ball. When that happened, all the players began to attack, to shoot, to try to dribble… And my father tells me that I took the ball, gave it to another girl and started to defend it”.
Before this last bad experience in Valencia, I had already worked with a psychologist. It was in the summer of 2018, when his self-esteem collapsed in a concentration of the Spanish team -Casas has won the Eurobasket twice-. “The World Cup was coming up and I didn’t want certain comments to affect me, so I started going to the psychologist and I solved it.”
Queralt is no longer afraid and this Thursday begins the fight to win the first League for Valencia Basket. There are two sensational rosters, although Perfumerías Avenida has lost Michaela Onyenwere because the WNBA forces players to be in preseason. Opposite, the Catalan escort is prepared to contribute her best virtues: defense, speed, intensity and a strange one-handed shot that has improved her percentages.
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