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The Top-10 International Moments of 2006
by: Luis Fernández - Director of International Scouting
January 3, 2007
Luis Fernandez breaks down the Top-10 international moments of 2006. Ricky Rubio, Marco Belinelli, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Yi Jianlian and others are featured.

Ricky Rubio’s Exhibition in the Cadet Final



The Setting:

Linares, Spain. August the 20th. U-16 European Championship Final featuring Spain vs. Russia. Spain had beaten Croatia the previous day in the semifinal behind a quadruple-double by Rubio. He was already the tournament leader in assists and steals, and needed 31 points and 23 rebounds the lead these two categories as well.

The Hero:

Ricky Rubio delivered one of the most incredible performances ever witnessed in youth categories, truly a game for the ages. Actually, it’s quite safe to assert that nobody has even come close in at least the last fifteen years. In a double-overtime thriller, Rubio led Spain to victory with 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists and 7 steals. He was just unstoppable, getting into the lane at will, creating for his teammates, fighting for rebounds, coming away with any loose ball, playing defense (although not nearly as consistently as he does it now); he was everywhere on the court. That day, Ricky looked like he was blessed by the basketball gods. It was precisely the perimeter shooting, head and shoulders his most notorious weaknesses, that provided the greatest game highlight. At the end of the regulation, Spain inbounded the ball with less than 2 seconds to go and 3 points down in the score. Rubio sank an impossible shot from half court to send the game to the first overtime.

His talent and statistical voraciousness upped Rubio to the tournament leadership in four main categories: points, rebounds, assists and steals. Nobody remembers such a dominant performance.

Other Highlights:

In case anybody thought that Rubio’s amazement ability was exhausted for a long time with this tournament, he was flat-out wrong. With coach Aíto García-Reneses willing to give him chances on court with DKV Joventut, Rubio not only has proven he belongs among top international competition, he has become a very important piece in his team at the age of 16. Actually, 2006 has finished with Rubio leading the Euroleague in steals per game and assists per minute.




Andrea Bargnani Is the First Pick in the NBA Draft

The Setting:

Madison Square Garden, New York, USA. June the 28th. As every year, the NBA distributes the world’s young basketball talent through the league via a draft. In one of the most uncertain editions in recent memory, the Toronto Raptors held the first pick, although their choice had been rumoured for months and had become vox populi in the previous hours.

The Hero:

Andrea Bargnani! That’s the name coming out of David Stern’s mouth. A historic day, since Il Mago became the first European selected with the first pick, as well as the second international player ever topping the draft without NCAA experience after Yao Ming. Indeed, it makes 2 out of 5 drafts since 2002 with an international top pick. The basketball world keeps changing.

Bargnani was a player with unique characteristics to envision a bright future in the strongest basketball competition. His combination of size, quickness, intimidation, perimeter touch, offensive potential in general and pro experience gave him the edge over more conventional rivals.

Other Highlights:

With ups and downs, his last season in Benetton Treviso left plenty of signs to feel intrigued about, some huge games, and particularly a terrific Finals series in the Italian League, where he became the most important man in his team alongside Ramunas Siskauskas. Already having left behind his NBA baptism, Bargnani is living up to expectations with the Raptors so far, and actually still looks like the most intriguing player from this class.




Sofoklis Schortsanitis Overpowers the USA

The Setting:

Saitama, Japan. September the 1st. World Championship Semifinal facing Greece vs. USA. It was the first attempt for Greece to reach the final of a world basketball competition. As usual, the Greek squad started the game trying to impose its rhythm, a slow-paced tempo, to take control of the situation and dynamite the game in the last quarters. The results were mixed: the US team wasn’t feeling very comfortable on court, but the Americans still enjoyed a clear lead in the score. Then, a very special couple entered the game; they were Theo Papaloukas and…

The Hero:

Sofoklis Schortsanitis. Building a terrific pick-and-roll combo, they absolutely destroyed the American defense (or lack thereof). Sofo showed off his terrific combination of hands, quick feet, and brute strength, running the court extremely well in transition, setting outstanding picks followed by intelligent cuts to the hoop, and shredding apart the middle part of the US’s lackluster man to man defense. The end result? 14 points in 17 minutes on 6/7 shooting for Schortsanitis, and 12 stellar assists for Papaloukas.

Other Highlights:

Sofoklis finished the 2005/06 Euroleague season in spectacular fashion, with some flashes of dominance on the paint. He played his best game against Zalgiris, in a 25-point performance that completely destroyed the frontcourt defense of the Lithuanian team. Since then, he resigned with Olimpiacos, but has been permanently stuck in new head coach Pini Gershon’s doghouse for being completely out of shape, benched for 2 games in early December. His weight has ballooned up to around 365 pounds, and he is averaging less than 10 minutes per game in the Euroleague, although his production per minute is certainly there at 7.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. There has been plenty of talk of Schortsanitis’s comfortable $500,000 NBA buyout and the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers still hold his rights, but Big Sofo will have to get himself together if he’s to convince them to invest in a long-term contract.




Marco Belinelli’s 34-Point Playoff Outburst



The Setting:

Bologna, Italy. June the 9th. The fifth game of the 2005/06 Italian League semifinals, featuring Climamio Bologna vs. Carpisa Napoli. The series was tied 2-2 and red hot. High-tensioned games, personal disputes, off-court declarations, aggressiveness in the stands…, the setting was prepared for a dramatic definitive game.

The Hero:

Marco Belinelli erupted for a career-high 34 points, leading Climamio to a 20-point victory to conquer the ticket to the finals. It was a spectacular performance, the perfect game in the perfect moment. He opened his count right away in the first possession of the game, banking a 25-footer (well beyond NBA three-point range), followed by 5 more treys in the first half; the final one a miraculous buzzer-beater from at least 30 feet that Marco released unbalanced against opposition. Amassing 24 points in this period, his early scoring effort was crucial for the final outcome, building the definitive lead for Climamio. He totalled 8 three-pointers, half of them from NBA range, as well as a couple of mid-to-long-range two-pointers, in a new demonstration of his perimeter-shooting-based game.

The hangover from past disputes in the series was there too, as Belinelli delivered plenty of trash talking to Michel Morandais, a super-athletic wing and his matchup in the game. The Frenchmen tried everything to stop Marco, but the young Italian came alive with a bag full of points while showing a great competitive character.

Other Highlights:

This was the culmination of an impressive 2005/06 season for the Italian shooter. Belinelli led his team in scoring in both the Euroleague and domestic front, showing a remarkable ability to score points at the top international level. He extended that scoring lead to the National Team in the World Championships, showing flashes of his terrific fire power particularly facing Slovenia (26 points) and the USA (25). The present season has not been as keen on him; Belinelli is struggling with his perimeter stroke and his effectiveness on court has taken a serious (hopefully temporary) hit.




Sergio Rodríguez Comes to Rescue for Spain

The Setting:

Saitama, Japan. September the 1st. World Championship Semifinal, Spain vs. Argentina. Spain had never won gold in any major international tournament, and since 1984, had not been capable of even advancing past the quarterfinals at the world stage-- either the World Championships or the Olympic Games-- stockpiling disappointments in awfully-played games. This time, considering the huge drop-off between the four best teams (Spain, Greece, USA and Argentina) and the rest, the quarterfinal doom was irrelevant against a weak Lithuania. However, the old ghosts came back for the semifinal, as Spain couldn’t reproduce the spectacular basketball they had exhibited throughout the tournament, being manhandled by an experienced and talented Argentina. With the starting backcourt missing in action, Spain trailed 18-10 in the score with 2 minutes left to finish the first quarter. It looked like the same old story again, except for…

The Hero:

Sergio Rodríguez came off the bench to spark the Spanish offense and lead his team back in the score. Without any historic complexes, as fearless as he always is, he changed the Spanish rhythm by giving life to the moribund. In the 15 minutes he spent on the court, Spain scored 38 points (more than they had in the other 25 minutes), outscored Argentina by 11 points and Rodríguez himself delivered 14 points and 2 assists.

It’s not far-fetched to think that Sergio was the most important player for Spain that day, the guy who came to rescue in the most difficult situation Spain faced on its way to the World throne.

Other Highlights:

Sergio enjoyed a terrific final run in the ACB League, showcasing his passing ability and scoring power. In the Playoffs, he averaged 18.7 points and 5.3 assists. After surprisingly falling to the very end of the first round of the 2006 NBA draft, Rodríguez has shown his terrific potential on numerous occasions already in his rookie season, indeed ranking 2nd in the NBA in assists per minute, only behind Steve Nash, and 5th in assist to turnover ratio.




Nicolas Batum Blossoms at the Junior Stage

The Setting:

Krestena and Amaliada, Greece. July 18th – 27th. U-18 European Championship.

The Hero:

Nicolas Batum impressed everybody in Greece with his exhibition of talent, athleticism, playing level and potential. Averaging 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds, the 6-8 wing starred for a very powerful French squad that conquered the continental title, earning in the process a definitive status of a major NBA prospect.

Other Highlights:

Batum had already won the MVP award in the Mannheim Tournament in May while his French U-18 squad got the victory. So far at the senior level in France and the Euroleague he is struggling with his confidence and has seen sporadic playing time, but has still managed to show his upside on some rare occasions.




Yi Jianlian Dominates the CBA



The Setting:

China. 2005/06 season. CBA league.

The Hero:

Yi Jianlian took another step towards complete dominance in Chinese basketball with his showing in the past CBA campaign. He’s already the best player in the league and has led his team to its third consecutive Chinese crown, being rewarded with the MVP award. Nobody in the CBA can even dream of matching the combination of size and athleticism that Yi displays. Add a few nice skills, and you have the recipe for an unstoppable player on the domestic front.

Other Highlights:

Beyond his statistical voraciousness early in the current CBA campaign, Yi particularly showcased his potential in the World Championships facing USA, in a game where he had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.




Ersan Ilyasova Earns MVP Honours at the U-20 Stage

The Setting:

Izmir, Turkey. July 13th – 24th. U-20 European Championship.

The Hero:

Ersan Ilyasova, after suffering serious injuries in the past, was finally able to entirely play through a FIBA youth tournament, earning in the process well-deserved MVP honours. He proved he deserved his spot in the NBA in terms of overwhelming physical superiority and also a nice skill set, where particularly his jumper stands out. His averages, 17.4 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Other Highlights:

His dominance at this stage didn’t come as a surprise. It was more staggering to check his consistency with the senior National Team at the World Champioinships. He enjoyed his best game against Australia, leading Turkey with 17 points. Ilyasova represents a new generation of Turkish players that are taking over the National Team and want to leave behind past embarrassments.




Milenko Tepic Leads the U-20 Serbian Team to Gold

The Setting:

Izmir, Turkey. July 13th – 24th. U-20 European Championship.

The Hero:

Milenko Tepic got the last laugh even if it was Ilyasova taking the MVP prize. Serbia and Montenegro prevailed over Turkey in the final, in what has already become a classic showdown for these age groups (both 1987 generations have met three times in FIBA youth finals: 2003, 2005 and 2006), with Tepic as the main catalyst for the Serbian team. He was a court leader, an orchestrator helping in virtually every department of the game despite not making that much noise (actually, he didn’t even qualify for the all-tournament team). His statistical production, 12.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists, doesn’t properly reflect his relevance in the game; more significant is the fact that he was both the top scorer and the guy spending the most minutes on court for the champion team.




Rudy Fernández With an Incredible Buzzer-Beater

The Setting:

Málaga, Spain. November the 2nd. Euroleague’s Regular Season, Game 2. Unicaja faces DKV Joventut, and the game is tied with 0.1 seconds left in the game. Joventut, particularly Lubos Barton, is inbounding the ball from the half-court. It looks like the game is headed for overtime, but…

The Hero:

Rudy Fernández came flying to tip-in the ball and to give the victory to his team. Much like his trademark alley-oop dunks, this time it was a matter of just touching the ball, and that was he did (with two hands). This was a key victory to build the team’s confidence in the competition after losing the Euroleague opener when they allowed Panathinaikos to come back in the score from a 24-point margin.

Other Highlights:

It has been a terrific year for Rudy Fernández. His 2005/06 season wasn’t particularly outstanding, but he did earn MVP honours in the FIBA EuroCup Final Four in April. He was also an excellent sixth man for the Spanish National Team in the World Championships, and he’s shining brightly in this first months of the 2006/07 campaign, particularly in an impressive December. He’s currently one of the best scorers in the ACB League and has completely taken over the leadership role in Joventut. Automatically eligible for the 2007 NBA draft, Fernández is working on convincing NBA front offices of his place in the league through his terrific production, rather than his upside. A 36 point outburst in the ACB league was just one example of that.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to luisfernandez@draftexpress.com .

 

Ricky Rubio
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Birthday: 10/21/1990
24 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Timberwolves , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #5 in 2009 Draft
by the Timberwolves
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
12.0 Pts, 6.0 Rebs, 7.0 Asts


Marco Belinelli
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 192 lbs.
Birthday: 03/25/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Spurs , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #18 in 2007 Draft
by the Warriors
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
15.0 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 3.0 Asts


Sergio Rodriguez
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 170 lbs.
Birthday: 06/12/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Real Madrid , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #27 in 2006 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
7.5 Pts, 0.0 Rebs, 2.0 Asts


Yi Jianlian
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 246 lbs.
Birthday: 10/28/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Guangdong , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #6 in 2007 Draft
by the Bucks
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: PF/C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
23.5 Pts, 12.8 Rebs, 1.5 Asts


Andrea Bargnani
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 1"
Weight: 249 lbs.
Birthday: 10/27/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Treviso , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2006 Draft
by the Raptors
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
8.0 Pts, 5.0 Rebs, 0.0 Asts


Yao Ming
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 5"
Weight: 296 lbs.
Birthday: 09/12/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2002 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
10.2 Pts, 5.4 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


Ramunas Siskauskas
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 203 lbs.
Birthday: 09/10/1978
36 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: CSKA Moscow , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PG/SG/SF,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
6.7 Pts, 2.3 Rebs, 1.3 Asts


Steve Nash
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 187 lbs.
Birthday: 02/07/1974
40 Years Old
Teams:
High School: St. Michaels University
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #15 in 1996 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
7.0 Pts, 1.5 Rebs, 3.0 Asts


Nicolas Batum
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 214 lbs.
Birthday: 12/14/1988
25 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Trailblazers , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #25 in 2008 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SG/SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
16.0 Pts, 5.0 Rebs, 6.0 Asts


Ersan Ilyasova
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 209 lbs.
Birthday: 05/16/1987
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Bucks , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #6 in 2005 Draft
by the Bucks
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
6.0 Pts, 1.0 Rebs, 0.0 Asts


Milenko Tepic
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 198 lbs.
Birthday: 02/27/1987
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Partizan , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PG/SG,
NBA: SF,
Possible: PG/SG/SF
Quick Stats:
7.3 Pts, 4.7 Rebs, 3.3 Asts


Rudy Fernandez
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 172 lbs.
Birthday: 04/05/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Real Madrid , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #24 in 2007 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
7.7 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 1.3 Asts


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