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    Vanier Reyes and the tenth crown: an act of justice

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    Hit like a harassed beast and win rebounds; he wins double, triple or more than he loses. It is difficult to see him with a scary face or a caged buffalo. He moves from one side of the court to the other at the speed allowed by his more than 200 pounds and his knees, which continue to accompany him like the first day.

    Rarely, never, to be exact, have I heard that he is injured or unwell.Up Down; he goes up and down again with the same rhythmic step and the plank creaking under his feet. It's hard to see him alter the rhythm; the one of walking and the one of the heart, because the two have played together, without fear, for 28 years, when he began to dribble the first balls. That's why he enjoys the inside game and the attacks below the basket.

    Vanier Reyes Venegas came into the world with skills for basketball, to fight, to fight, to win the ball, not to drive it or shoot it, no matter what hoop is in front of him, almost within reach.

    “The free throw? Phew, I don't like it." It is like the most difficult puzzle, the pending subject. He recognizes it. From the free throw line he looks calm. One or two "pricks" against the board and almost without looking he throws it to the hoop, the ball through the air; he turns upside down and misses it, because yes, he misses more than he scores; however, the opposite happens when he throws it from 6.75 meters.

    The referee raises his right hand. It's worth three!

    “Although I don't consider myself a good long-distance shooter, I like to do it by surprise, when nobody expects it, and I score it, because the three-point shot is like the home run of the ball and the people applaud it and the team advances.

    “Can I confess something to you about free throws? Before, I was a striker and since I started playing with my back to the rim I lost confidence in them, although this season the effectiveness exceeds 60 percent”.

    More than all, basketball fans know it. Although Cuba has never made a team and has made some pre-selections, Vanier has had enough of what he wanted in that sport and I doubt there is another with the same record at home: champion of the Basket Superior League (LSB), the most important competition in this sport of those that take place in Cuba, as a member of the Buffaloes in the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2013 and 2016, plus another three titles that he already had with Centrals and four more in the Olympics of Cuban sports and another one, in 2018, as a reinforcement in the Villa Clara LSB, a team with which he likes to play, after Los Búfalos.

    Father Time sets out to defeat him; but no, physically he feels good and in training he always takes the caste of a champion and is even better than many of the youngsters: planks, irons, sit-ups, runs, among other exercises, “except for the obligatory routine of the shots free”. That's why it fails them in the game, I think. When you add up the minutes played, among all the members of the team he is one of those who accumulates the most, without visible fatigue, without exhaustion.

    Apparently, in this league, already 38 years old under the boards, there are not a few rivals who have proposed to humiliate him, reduce him and annul him, and he responds as if it were not him, with a sly smile, his downcast gaze on the pitch and the thought of José Francisco, Paco, and Rolando Paz, his first coaches.

    Vanier is a class of constant improvement and dedication. He owes everything to basketball, from his training as an athlete, the person he is, to the home he forms with his wife and daughter Alexa, the fruit of a love conquered in one of those feline matches against the Capital team, a team to which he would have liked to face in the final of the current LSB, although Los Guerreros de Sancti Spíritus cut them off. “No, she is a follower of Los Búfalos”, she imagines and clarifies before the question, as if to dispel doubts.

    A lover of coffee, tobacco, ice cream and some other special drink, he once silenced my disappointment, when in April 2018 they lost the final by a humiliating 0-4 against Los Lobos de Villa Clara: “We will be champions again. We have a lot of valuable youngsters coming up behind."

    He was referring to the left-hander (Dariel Castellanos), Omarito (Omar Álvarez), Clemment (German Luis Clark Clemment, a giant pivot of more than two meters who has yet to mature), among others.

    “We have managed to get them to have confidence and give their best for us to be able to refresh. We have been with the crown for many years and that is difficult to maintain.