A mere few months after dominating the Mountain West and earning the conference’s Defensive Player and Freshman of the Year awards, Utah State center Neemias Queta was conquering foes some 8,000 miles away in the U20 FIBA Division B tournament en route to a semi-final appearance.
Then came the third quarter of said semi-final against Russia. With 14 points, 14 boards and a block to his name, Queta went for his 15th board with under 40 seconds left in the third. In doing so, he fell awkwardly and hard with his left leg taking the brunt of it. The 6-foot-11 center had to be helped off the court and could not put weight on the injured leg. He did not return for the duration of the game.
The Aggies’ soon-to-be sophomore had been a driving force for the host Portugal, who had won all of its 10 games by 22.2 points if you include the preparation contests. In the four-game group stage, Queta averaged 11.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while shooting 65.6 percent from the floor. He put up those numbers on just 22.0 minutes per game. The laudable group numbers netted him a nomination for the Division B MVP award. In an online fan vote, Queta is currently the favorite in the public eye to win MVP being just ahead of Georgia’s Rati Andronikashvili in a two-way race (note: the fan poll is not the official deciding vote).
After advancing into the knockout round, Queta posted a 26-point, 14-rebound and six assist game in the quarterfinals against Georgia to help his side advance to play Russia.
Throughout the tournament, Queta was second on his team in points per game (14.3), 16th overall and fourth among centers. He also lead his team in blocks (2.0) and rebounds (11.0) — second and third, respectively among tournament players.
USU basketball’s head coach, Craig Smith, even traveled to the southwest European country to support his young star center.
Smith recently spoke with the hosts of The Statesman Sports Desk and was asked about what he thought of some of his players competing overseas and the reigning Mountain West Coach of the Year compared the experience gained to that which comes from playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“You can imagine it and you can think about it, you can see that and go through that as much as you want, but going through that is a whole other deal,” Smith said. “You have to earn confidence. You have to earn everything in life. But you have to put yourself out there and go through that to see what that feels like. Going through these kinds of things and playing at that level of competition I think is incredibly beneficial.”
Unfortunately, Queta may come home with the unwanted experience of a potentially serious injury. Neither the Portuguese Basketball Federation or Utah State Basketball have put out statements on the injury’s severity or if Queta will play in Portugal’s championship matchup with the Czech Republic on Sunday.
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