Dec. 18, 2008
By Shannon Walsh
One of three players in NCAA Division I basketball hailing from Venezuela, Maracaibo-born David Cubillan is one of the Golden Eagles' top reserves at guard. Every time the junior steps onto the court, he remembers he is representing the South American country at the highest level of college athletics.
"It feels great to represent Venezuela, I'm proud of it. I know that when I play, I always try to do my best and represent my country," said the guard. "The reason I try to do it is because I want more players to have the opportunity to play Division I basketball or just go to school and experience that, because it's a good experience and it provides a lot of opportunities for you in the future."
Being one of the three from Venezuela ensures the trios closeness, as they talk often and keep tabs on one another's play. Cubillan grew up with Maryland's Greivis Vasquez and played in high school with Rutger's Gregory Echenique.
"Greivis is Maryland's starting point guard and is doing a great job. I grew up with him and we've been playing together since we were nine years old and we still talk a lot," said Cubillan of the 6-foot-6 junior who earned second team All-ACC honors as a sophomore.
"Gregory Echenique goes to Rutgers and is a freshman there. When I was a senior in high school, my coach told me about him, so I made some phone calls. I called his mom, and he came to my high school and was a freshman there while I was a senior," said Cubillan, who played with both Echenique and Marquette's Dwight Burke at St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.). "I was kind of his big brother because we were from the same country and he was new here and didn't know the language. I was able to teach him a lot and we still keep in touch. He's doing really well right now at Rutgers."
As Cubillan has helped lay the foundation of success in Division I basketball for Venezuelan natives, and he was able to augment his own success by traveling with Venezuela's national team two summers ago.
"It was a great experience because I got to play with all the players and I went to different countries. I saw different ways and styles of basketball being played," said Cubillan. "Just being able to play with all these players, I kind of grew up."
This experience has been evident on the court in Milwaukee since. Despite the squad's limited bench production this season, Cubillan has taken scoring into his own hands, averaging nearly 30 percent of the team's bench scoring, including all five points from reserves in the loss to Dayton.
During the 2007-08 season, Cubillan appeared in 34 of the team's 35 contests, all off the bench, averaging 5.1 points per game in 17.6 minutes. He finished third on the team in 3-pointers made, behind Dominic James and Lazar Hayward.
The year before, the then-freshman started in one game out of the 34 he made appearances in, and saw 21.2 minutes per game, scoring 5.5 points per game and shooting 42.5% from long distance.
With 92 of his 121 career rebounds coming on the defensive end, Cubillan places an emphasis on the important of defense, the area of play he prides himself most in.
"When I play defense, I feel like that's how I get it started and then the offense comes," said the guard who has averaged about a steal per game over the course of his career. "I don't like when people score on me, I get mad."
Always the team's emotional leader, Cubillan brings a spark into the game from his reserve spot in his celebrations and shimmies on the court, as well as his knack for knocking down a crucial trey.
"I'm an emotional player - that's just the way I am. It doesn't matter if I'm playing open gym or in a huge game, I'm always going to be like that. I don't see myself like that, it's just my personality," he said. "When I get in the game, I'm expected to bring energy. My teammates see this as my role, so that's something I do everyday."
Perhaps one of Cubillan's most memorable moments off the court came in CBS' 2008 broadcast of One Shining Moment, a video montage aired after every national championship game. The guard, fired up after a big basket, playfully grabs former coordinator of basketball operations and video coordinator Brian Barone by the jaw, kisses his cheek, and pushes him away.
Such is the fire and passion that Cubillan plays with. This drive for success earned him the Floor Burn Award following last season.
"It's just who I am, I just play like that. It's not like I was playing to get an award," said the 6-foot-0 guard humbly. "That's the way I play and they saw it and thought I was appropriate for the award, so they gave it to me."
In the off-season, the junior had surgery on both shoulders which stunted his hopes for improvement during the summer months.
"Coming back from the surgery was kind of hard. You have to be committed and responsible for doing rehab," Cubillan said. "Missing the whole summer was tough because I wasn't able to lift weights. Obviously my team was one step ahead of me because of all the summer workouts, but everything is going well and I'm playing."
Though the guard says that his shoulders no longer bother him, the comeback is still a daily process, especially in terms of his shot.
"My shot is the same but it's just that my shoulders aren't as strong as they were, so sometimes they get a little tired," he said of his continuous recovery. "But then again during the game, I don't play 40 minutes."