From Spain to Tampa, they continue to play together

Freshman wing Carla Brito averaged 11.1 points per game for the U18 National Team. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Freshmen point guard Marina Asensio and wing Carla Brito found themselves fighting in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) European Women’s championship for the Spain national under-18 (U18) basketball team on Aug. 22 in Greece.

There were 50 seconds left on the clock when a missed three-pointer by Asensio would have tied the game. 

It seemed like the loss marked the end of a journey. However, the two found themselves beginning a new one as they moved from a team in Spain to Tampa, now playing for South Florida’s women’s basketball team.

Spain’s U18 team is governed by the Spanish Basketball Federation and their experience to get to that game prompted them for USF. 

“It was our first official competition with our national team,” Asensio said. “It was good to start feeling that [playing] level outside of our country. We enjoyed the experience and learned a lot.” 

Brito was a top performer for the U18 National Team, averaging 11.1 points and 8 rebounds per game. Asensio averaged 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds.

Coach Jose Fernandez said he had been recruiting them even before joining the national team because of the high level of basketball played in Spain. The country is ranked No. 2 in FIBA and Asensio used to play at Segle XXI, a Spanish basketball academy in Barcelona. Brito played for Spar Gran Canaria, a Spanish women’s basketball team in the Canary Islands. 

“I just think they just played basketball at such a high level,” Fernandez said. “The Spanish Federation is one of the best federation’s to play in in the world so they’ve played against such great competition and they both have had really good training and really good coaches.”

The two have known each other since they were 14 years old. They said they feel their friendship translates onto the court after years of playing together and bonding over their shared native language of Spanish. 

“She knows how I play. I know how she plays, it’s easier to play with her,” Brito said. 

Brito said she asked permission from Asensio if she could also commit to South Florida. 

“I asked her if there would be a problem if I came here,” Brito said. “And ‘What do you think if I [decide] to go?’” 

Asensio said the memory is funny to her now because their relationship has grown since moving to Tampa. She said she was grateful to have a familiar face in the midst of a big life change. 

“That was a really fun conversation because she doesn’t have to ask for that,” Asensio said. “When I knew that she was coming here, I felt so good because [I knew someone] that speaks the same language. I was so happy.” 

Brito and Asensio have found some differences within basketball between the two countries. The speed and talent of the players for USF have been a challenge. 

However, that hasn’t been the biggest obstacle. Moving to another country was not as hard on Brito, but Asensio said this was her first time moving away from home. She said she misses her family, especially her father. He was a large reason she chose to come to the U.S. for basketball. 

“The first week was so hard for me,” Asensio said. “At the beginning of the process of choosing a university, it was him who started telling me ‘Oh, you need to start looking at this opportunity.’ He’s so excited [about] me being here. He’s excited to start watching the team.” 

Both players are excited to begin playing and show off their hard work in a new country, both from on and off the court. 

Outside of practice they both want to improve their English and learn how to make Tampa feel like “home.” So far, Asensio said that aside from having Brito next to her, she is happy the team has made her feel so comfortable. 

“USF is a really special university,” Asensio said. “I have just been here for two months, but I am so thankful for all the teammates and people who are helping me everyday.” 

Fernandez said he remembers how excited they were to be added to the list of Spanish players that have played for the Bulls. They will be following Laia Flores who was a point guard from Spain from 2014 to 2018. 

Most of all, he is proud of them for taking a big leap toward their future. 

“They’re taking an opportunity to leave home and come study in the States and be a part of a top 25 program,” Fernandez said. “They’re going to get an incredible education here they’re going to be able to use after basketball is all over.”