Maite Cazorla doesn’t have a national title. She hasn’t won any tournament MVP honors nor been an All-American. Yet, she has five gold medals.
Cazorla, a point guard from Las Palmas, Spain, has taken what she’s learned from playing six years with the Spain National Team, including winning some serious hardware, to create an impactful Oregon career.
“It’s been fun to be able to watch her and learn from her,” Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon’s junior point guard said. “I think everyone is really blessed to be able to be led by such a great point guard.”
When she was just 12 years old, the Spanish National Team invited Cazorla to join that year’s youth program.
She won her first gold medal with the team three years later as a 15-year-old on the under-16 team.
Cazorla spent about a month every summer for the following five years with the national team, practicing and playing in games while traveling the globe. As a point guard, she helped the team to four additional age-based FIBA European Championship titles, averaging 6.0 points, 1.74 rebounds and 2.48 assists per game during championship appearances.
“She was focused in not only in playing good basketball, but she knows that her teammates need to feel good to play good,” said Ángela Salvadores, who was Cazorla’s teammate on Spain for six years. “There’s not a lot of players caring about that. I think that’s what makes the difference between her and another point guard.”
Of all the hardware hanging up in her room back home, the one medal that stands out the most to her is not gold, but silver.
In the summer of 2014, on Spain’s U-17 team, Cazorla once again helped the team reach the FIBA World Cup. Their opponent? Team USA, featuring a 14-year-old Ionescu.
“It was a really close game and a game that is going to be unforgettable,” Cazorla said. “If you watch the game, it was a pretty intense game. So, we still talk shit to each other and it’s just fun.”
Playing with the Spanish team brought many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and taught Cazorla life-long lessons that she has transferred over to her career as a Duck.
“Getting able to play with the best players in Spain and playing against the best players from all over the country, it’s an amazing experience,” she said.
Sitting at second on Oregon’s All-Time assists record list, Cazorla has already begun to leave a gold-medal worthy impact.
“Maite is our most important player,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “She’s our best defender. She’s one of our smartest players and is going to be a great pro. … That’s just kind of who she is. She’s a winner.”
Correction: this story originally stated that Cazorla had won four FIBA World Championships, when instead she won four age-based FIBA European Championships.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni