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The Detroit News

Luis Brignoni’s Talent Is No Longer A Secret

By Scott Hagen

July 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Detroit News. All rights reserved. 

WESTLAND -- Luis Brignoni might be Puerto Rico's best-kept secret.

Brignoni, 19, scored 54 points for Puerto Rican Flamingo Hills on Saturday night in a 116-101 victory against the South Fulton Rockin' Knights at the AAU Junior Olympics.

Brignoni is forcing other teams to come watch him play so they can prepare a strategy to stop him.

Although the Michigan Governor's Team did just that Sunday, by limiting him to 21 points in a 109-93 victory over his team, don't expect him to stay down for long.

Brignoni's talent might be hereditary. When he was 4, his father, also named Luis, gave him a basketball, and slowly developed him into a dominant player. Brignoni's biggest decision now is whether to forfeit his academic eligibility to play professionally in Puerto Rico.

"He's the best offensive player I've ever had," said Jorge Fontanez, who has coached Brignoni for 13 years. "He has a lot of qualities. He's a good human being, he's a good son and he's also a good athlete."

The elder Brignoni played 14 years in the Puerto Rican Superior League, including seven years on the Puerto Rican National team, which included a trip to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

He still remembers the Olympics and the one-point loss to the United States. He remembers so well that he acts out -- with arms flailing in the air -- the foul call during the closing seconds that he says cost the team a victory.

Brignoni coached his son until he was 12. He attends every practice he can and has learned his son's strengths and weaknesses. Because his son is relatively unknown outside Puerto Rico, teams don't know what to expect until it's too late.

"Since they don't know him, they give him space," Brignoni said. "But he has a great penetration game."

He has all kinds of game. On Saturday, he was as likely to take an outside three-point shot, making 9 of 11, as he was to drive to the basket with amazing quickness. But what his father emphasized most, to enjoy the game, is apparent with Brignoni's continual smile.

"This is a dream come true," he said. "The people, the competition and the entertainment are incredible. But I learned a lot from the game, like to play more defense. They're like bullets on the court."

The Puerto Rican team has brought not only its dreams but also an enthusiasm for the game. The players' pregame ritual involves a close huddle, as they clap, whoop and scream before taking the court.

"They are from different parts of Puerto Rico," Fontanez said. "They make a lot of effort to make the resources to accomplish this dream. All the players are enthusiastic for the competition and they play so hard on the court to obtain the best results."

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