Hard to compare this 17-year-old
BEIJING -- Tonight I felt like a basketball A&R guy.
The ESP gracing Spain's uniforms represents the nation's three-letter IOC abbreviation, but on Rubio's teenage chest it screams Extra-Sensory Perception.
The story thus far: At 14, Rubio actually played in Spain's ACB, the top European pro league, for DKV Joventut Badalona near his Catalan hometown of El Masnou.
At 15, he led Spain to FIBA's Under 16 European title, along the way registering a quadruple-double and, in a double-overtime win over Russia in the final, 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists, seven steals and one half-court buzzer-beater to force the first OT.
At 16, he led the Euroleague (a man's league) in steals (a man's stat).
Under NBA rules, he won't be draft eligible for two more years, so if I were indeed a basketball A&R guy, I couldn't whip out a contract quite yet.
But you can already see the benefits of exposure to older players -- the even emotional keel, fearlessness, and willingness to give and take contact. At the offensive end, there's the Mediterranean expressiveness, once exemplified by the late
But it's his defense that had me ready to offer Rubio a contract. You don't usually find defensive precociousness in young guards with show in their games.
He saved Spain's bacon in pool play against China, helping lead his team from 15 points down and somehow prising the ball on a crucial possession from China guard
Then, in the middle of the second quarter Saturday night, he flat-out stole the ball from
And early in the fourth, he picked off a Redeem Team pass at midcourt and went sailing in for a layup, only to wind up on the floor thanks to a challenge from
The hoops cognoscenti are still trying to settle on the best "plays like" analogies.
I'm just glad that 10:15 p.m. -- when Saturday's game tipped off in Beijing -- wasn't past Ricky's bedtime.