October 21, 2017

Manuel Raga Jr. 

Manuel Raga Jr. 

There is a story of the Mexican basketball star Manuel Raga, one of the main scorers of Ignis, who fell deeply in love with a young Yugoslav Muslim girl. They were married and soon had a son name Manuel Raga Jr.

I played basketball with Manuel Raga Jr. when we lived together in Ticino, Switzerland. We were teammates in Vacallo, and like his father, he was a very good basketball player (tough). He played in the Euro League in 2000-2001 with the Lugano Snakes and most often for either Lugano or Vacallo.

Manuel Raga Jr. – Lugano Basketball Club

Here is a little background on his father Olympian Manuel Raga (senior).

Name: Manuel Navarro Raga

Nickname: The Flying Mexican, The Phenomenon

Born: March 14,1944

Status: Retired

Origin: Aldama Villa, Tamaulipa, Mexico

Height: 2,00m

Weight: 215lbs (95kg)

Drafted: 1970, 10th round, 167th pick overall by the Atlanta Hawks

Languages: Spanish

Teams: Pallacanestro Varese, Mexican National Team


IBN Notes: Who is Manuel Raga you ask? Raga was the first international player ever to be drafted in the NBA draft.  In the 10th round, with the 167th pick, Atlanta GM Marty Blake selected the Mexican star, making Manuel Raga the first foreign player ever to be drafted into the NBA (later in the 11th round, Italian legend Dino Meneghin would be drafted). Even though the Flying Mexican would never don an NBA jersey, much less step foot in the United States, his significance stands in international basketball history.



Anyway, during a simple shooting drill at practice we were asked by our head Italian Head Coach Franco Casalini (with Asst. Coach Franco Facchinetti) to get into groups of three.  One rebounder, one passer, one shooter (use 2 balls throughout the shooting drill). Then each player shall take his turn to make as many possible shots in one minute.

I was partnered with Manuel Raga (Euro-League) and Ivan Opaçak (Bosnia & Herzegovina National Team Player).

Ivan Opaçak

It’s a common and simple drill…the rebounder passes the ball to a passer and the passer passes to the shooter. 10 3-point shots each, then rotate.

As you can imagine, good shooters will always show the passer a specific target – usually one or two hands indicating precisely where they wish to receive the ball.

Ivan Opaçak was truly an outstanding athlete (he could jump higher than most ‘white’ players I have seen). He was also an excellent basketball player, quick, driven to be the best, and a good passer.

During the drill, after making his first incorrect pass (inches away from Raga’s target hands), Manuel said to Ivan, “Hey… Pass the ball properly?”

After a second nonchalant – or incorrect – pass Manuel shook his head and gave Ivan a stern look saying, “Common Man!!!”

I clearly remember the third ‘imprecise pass’ still traveling through midair when Manuel – somewhat understandably – charged at Ivan – bashing the ball away mid-flight and rushing to get as quickly as possible to Ivan’s head.  Manuel, like Ivan, was strong and knew exactly what to do when he started attacking and beating up Ivan. Nothing was going to stop him.

After he was done pummeling Ivan, Manuel simply said, “Pass the F’n ball properly you F’n idiot”. (Then walked away – I am guessing, to cool down).  

Opaçak was clearly – and understandably – shocked. He quickly brushed himself off then turned and kicked a plastic chair hard through the air clear across the court and into our gym wall. Thanks to Manu, our team made sure we passed the ball much more accurately for the rest of the season – and perhaps our lives. 

Lesson: At the professional level (any level) pass the ball to where the receiver asks for it. Shooter will appreciate you much more.

R –