The Master’s University’s Hansel Atencia (4) starred for the Colombia national team last week at a FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifier.
The venue was larger. The stakes were higher. The court was populated by former NBA players.
But fans of The Master’s University men’s basketball team would have seen something familiar inside the cavernous arena in Medellin, Colombia, this week.
Namely, the 5-foot-10 point guard from Colombia’s national team, knifing through Brazil’s defense, firing off threes and creating for others, at one point lofting a pass for a teammate to pound through the rim.
Hansel Atencia will be a senior at Master’s next season. He was a spark plug for Colombia in its attempt to qualify for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Atencia, a native of Bucaramanga, Colombia, played in four of Colombia’s six qualifiers, averaging 18 points and 4.5 assists. He played more minutes on average than any player in the 16-team qualifier.
On Monday, he scored 12 points with four assists in a 98-71 loss to Brazil, a team that featured former NBA players Anderson Varejao and Marcelo Huertas.
Atencia’s best game came June 29, when he scored 21 points with eight assists in a narrow win over Chile, Colombia’s only win of the group stage.
Ultimately, Colombia didn’t advance to the second round of qualifying. But, it did display the skills of a point guard who hopes to lead Master’s to a second straight Golden State Athletic Conference title and beyond next season.
“I think the best thing about this is the fact that I got to play against some players who played in the NBA and others who are playing pro in Europe,” said Atencia, who began his college career at NCAA Division 1 Liberty University in Virginia before transferring to Master’s. “Some of them are players that I really look up to.”
Colombia finished tied with Chile in the Group B standings, but Chile advanced via tiebreaker. Atencia was the tournament’s third leading scorer (in a tie with former NBA player Luis Scola). He was seventh in assists per game. He averaged 36 minutes a night.
The FIBA World Cup features four qualifiers – African, European, Asian and Americas. The first round of Americas qualification featured three two-game windows.
In November, Atencia tossed in 17 points against Chile and 22 against Venezuela. He didn’t play in Colombia’s two February qualifiers because he was busy helping Master’s earn the first NAIA No. 1 ranking in program history. The Mustangs finished the year 29-3, with Atencia averaging career highs of 15.5 points and 4.3 assists on his way to being named an All-American.
Atencia, 21, hopes his experience with the national team will open the door to more basketball after he graduates from Master’s. His 3-to-1 assists-to-turnover rate for Colombia should be a selling point.
“I think this is a great opportunity for me to show my game and show people that I can play against these players,” Atencia said. “I want to go pro after I graduate, and I think playing with the national team will help me with that.”
Said TMU coach Kelvin Starr, “What an incredible experience for Hansel this summer. He played against some of the best players in the world. This could set him up for an All-American type senior year.”
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