FIBA 2010 Players To Watch
Just 19, Ricky Rubio is already regarded as one of the most talented point guards in the world. The flashy Spaniard was drafted fifth by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009, but remains in Europe for myriad reasons. In an exhibition versus Team USA on Aug. 22, Rubio finished with seven points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists in 21 minutes. He helped his national team win a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics and snag a gold medal at the 2009 FIBA European Championship.
Considered one of the best players in FIBA basketball, Luis Scola was named MVP of the 2007 and 2009 FIBA Americas Championships. At 6-foot-9, the Houston Rockets power forward can bang in the post while also providing a soft touch. He averaged 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Rockets last season and has never missed a game in his three seasons in the NBA. With Manu Ginobili sitting out, Scola becomes the face of Argentina basketball.
With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony staying home, Team USA is Kevin Durant's to lead. The 6-foot-9 forward was the NBA's 2010 scoring champ (30.1 points) and was named All-NBA first team in just his third year. With an undersized supporting cast, Durant will likely play a lot of power forward during the 2010 tournament, creating even more matchup problems for opposing teams than the superstar already creates in the NBA. An incredible athlete, shooter and finisher, Durant is the complete package.
The Brazilian team is loaded with talent, most notably Leandro Barbosa, but Tiago Splitter is the team's true rising star. The 6-foot-11 center was named the Spanish League MVP in 2010 and will play for the San Antonio Spurs this season. With Brazilian center Nene expected to miss the tournament, Splitter will be called upon heavily, and he could have a breakout performance.
An accomplished international point guard, Carlos Arroyo will lead a lightning-quick Puerto Rico team once again. Known mostly as a floor general with the Miami Heat, Arroyo becomes a do-it-all guard when he puts on his national uniform. In his nine seasons in the NBA, Arroyo has never averaged more than 12.6 points. But during the 2006 FIBA World Championship, Arroyo averaged 21.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds.
Before starring as a swingman at Connecticut, Brown played high school basketball in Canada, where he once scored 111 points in a game. After failing to catch on in the NBA, Brown has found a career overseas and currently plays for the Philippine Basketball Association's Barangay Ginebra Kings. With Miami Heat center Joel Anthony and New York Knicks second-round pick Andy Rautins flanking him, Brown should be able to score in bunches once again.
Nando De Colo
An array of French stars are sitting out the 2010 World Championship -- Tony Parker and Joakim Noah to name a few -- but the team is still loaded with young up-and-comers, including 6-foot-6 combo guard Nando De Colo. He struggled in France's pre-worlds exhibition game against the U.S. but has shown loads of potential in recent years, which led the San Antonio Spurs to select him in the 2009 draft.
Known as "Baby Shaq," Sofoklis Schortsanitis is not only one of the biggest players at the tournament (6-foot-10, roughly 370 pounds), but also one of the best. Known as a bruiser, Schortsanitis was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2006, but has declined to come to America and elected instead to play in Europe. "Baby Shaq" currently plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv, but in 31 games with Olympiacos last season he averaged 9.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in just 13.4 minutes.
A member of the Lithuanian national team since 2002, Robertas Javtokas is one of the best big men in the competition. A motorcycle crash stalled his career in 2002, but Javtokas has since recovered and reclaimed his dominance. The 6-foot-11 center scored 10 points and pulled down six rebounds in an exhibition against Team USA on Aug. 21, holding his own against the likes of Tyson Chandler and Lamar Odom and even getting the better of them in some instances.
Nenad Krstic made headlines last week for his role in Serbia's brawl with Greece, but his play could do the same in Turkey (provided he isn't suspended because of the fight). Currently with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Krstic had his most productive NBA season with the New Jersey Nets in 2006, when he averaged 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds before going down with an injury. The 7-footer is the oldest and most experienced player on Serbia's roster and could provide matchup problems for opposing national teams in the post.
Since being added to the Spanish squad for the 2006 World Championship, Gasol has racked up a world title (2007), gold and silver European Championship medals (2009, 2007) and a silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The 7-foot-1 NBA center, who was sent to Memphis in a 2008 trade package for his older brother, Pau, quickly came into his own with the Grizz. Last season, he averaged 14.6 points and 9.3 boards and shot a team-high 58.1 percent from the floor. With Pau out of the World Championship this year, Marc will carry the reins for Spain down low.
Leading host country Turkey is Hedo Turkoglu, a 10-year NBA veteran and recent addition of the Phoenix Suns. At 6-foot-10, Turkoglu is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. The big man can put the ball on the floor, shoot from beyond the arc and create his own shot. The NBA's 2008 Most Improved Player owns career averages of 12.2 points and 4.3 rebounds.