He will play in the franchise in which his compatriot Pablo Prigioni works. He is the ninth player from the country to be selected and, in 23rd place, he is the highest chosen in history.
Leandro Bolmaro was chosen by the New York Knicks in the 23rd place in the first round of the NBA draft but was immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is the Argentine to be selected the highest in history (Carlos Delfino was 25 in 2003). Yes, a feat that neither the members of the Golden Generation like Manu Ginobili nor Luis Scola, to name the most emblematic cases, could achieve. The 20-year-old perimeter currently plays in Barcelona in Spain and is the first Argentine “drafted” since Juan Pablo Vaulet was elected in 2015. He will go to the team where his compatriot Pablo Prigioni works.
The tension and adrenaline traveled thousands of kilometers in a matter of seconds and assembled a web of emotions. From where the boy felt, at the hotel where the NBA took him with his girlfriend to, almost during the European morning, be accompanied by his family, friends and also his basketball “godfather” -Pepe Sánchez-, from different places in the world via zoom to follow what was happening in Bristol, Connecticut, in the studios of the ESPN network where the draft took place.
If it was an indicative, in addition to the transfer to that special accommodation, before the ceremony the Onion had received one of 30 exclusive player kits courtesy of the league, which included 30 beanies for each team, a personalized Spalding ball with the name, a tablet, an iPhone, virtual reality glasses, wireless headphones and even a lamp led to eventually attend the press.
The explosion came when, in this unprecedented virtual ceremony (in pre-pandemic times it was always carried out in some stadium with the candidates on site and even fans in the stands), the commissioner of the best basketball league in the world, Adam Silver, expressed the famous phrase: “With the 23rd selection, the New York Knicks choose Leandro Bolmaro, from Argentina.”
The Cordovan will be part of a team that on draft night traded Spanish Ricky Rubio, base world champion last year, and has Pablo Prigioni as one of Ryan Saunders’ assistant coaches. In addition, the Colombian Gersson Rosas leads the offices as manager.
The team’s possibilities now are to allow it to continue developing in Barcelona, where it has a contract until 2023; take him to the United States to “give” him to the Iowa Wolves, the affiliate team in the G-League (the Development League), or add him directly for this NBA campaign, although this is unlikely.
When the franchise decides to incorporate it, it must pay Barcelona the amount for the exit clause, which is $ 900,000; a minimum part must come out of the player’s pocket, since by regulation NBA teams cannot currently pay more than $ 750,000.
This Thursday, Leandro will play for the Euroleague against Olympiacos in what will be his first game as a “drafted”.
Unlike what happened with the Argentines elected in the second round, among whom are Manu Ginobili and Luifa Scola, who spent 3 and 5 years (respectively) since they were elected until they finally stepped on US parquets, there is optimism regarding to a faster arrival from Varillense fan of Boca.
For example, in the case of Delfino (the only one who had been selected in the first round), only one year passed: in 2003 the Detroit Pistons chose him and in mid-2004 he joined the team.
Bolmaro is the owner of a frank sporting promotion in the last five years. Less than five years ago, he was still an outstanding athlete. In 2016, for example, he was the Under-18 decathlon champion in the National Combined Events Cup that took place in Santa Fe. Yes: he was the best in the event that groups running, throwing and jumping competitions.
He still divided his hours between the plaid and the parquet, but he was already beginning to participate in the processes of youth basketball selection and to attract the attention of talent recruiters. Thus it was that he got to participate in several international campuses, including the prestigious Basketball Without Borders in which the NBA concentrates the best and most promising young people in the world.
After leaving Córdoba, where he started playing for Almafuerte de Las Varillas and then went to El Ceibo -he also played with the provincial team-, Bolmaro ended up in Weber Bahía Basket in 2017. There he played 25 National League matches plus as many in the Liga de Development, with averages of 1.9 points, 0.6 rebounds and 0.5 assists in just over 7 minutes per night. His potential, however, was indisputable: a year later he was signed by Barcelona.
With the Blaugrana club, he made his first weapons in team B, in the Second and Third Division, where he averaged 11.3 points, 3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals. Since last year he had forays into the senior team to play ACB League and Euroleague. With the youth teams, for example, he played the 2019 U19 World Cup, in which he was the Argentine scorer with 10.8 goals per game.
Today, so shortly after, he made his name into NBA history. And it’s just the beginning.