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Pau wants to play in China; Calderon, Marc Gasol hail success of Spain players in Qualifiers
SAN ANTONIO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019) - Spain great Pau Gasol says he's looking forward to competing with his country again, at this summer's 32-team FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
The MVP of FIBA's flagship competition in 2006 and most decorated player in his national team's history, Gasol told Trendbasket: "My intentions are to join the team and play.
"If I'm healthy, my intention is to play. I like to play again with the national team and I'd like to have a good World Championship and help our team qualify for the Olympics once again."
#TBExclusive | @paugasol of @spurs told @TrendBasket after Wednesday's game vs. 76ers that he's willing to don La Roja jersey this summer at the @FIBAWC, if he's healthy. He'll be 39 this summer and wishes to carry @BaloncestoESP on top of the world, for the first time since '06. pic.twitter.com/nIiZ2XepV7— TrendBasketEN (@TrendBasketEN) January 24, 2019
The 2020 Summer Olympics will be in Tokyo, Japan.
"That's my intention," Gasol said of playing in China. "At this point, health is a big issue. I'm 38 and I'll be 39 this summer, so that's a fact. But my wish and my desire is to be with my national team and continue to do great things for my country."
Spain clinched their place at the World Cup with a qualifying window to spare, winning 8 of 10 games in the European Qualifiers.
Coach Sergio Scariolo has given numerous, less heralded players but ones that were deserving, a chance to wear the national team shirt. Several will have a good chance of playing for the country in China.
Jose Manuel Calderon, who retired from the national team after the Rio 2016 Games, says the European Qualifiers for the World Cup have been a huge success for Spain, not only with the qualification but also because Scariolo now has more players to choose.
"THESE FIBA WINDOWS HAVE BEEN A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO LET IT BE KNOWN THAT THE NATIONAL TEAM IS NOT ONLY THE 12-16 PLAYERS THAT WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN, BUT THAT THERE ARE MANY PLAYERS IN SPANISH BASKETBALL WHO ARE AT A GREAT LEVEL AND WHO HAVE QUALIFIED US FOR THE WORLD CUP. BEST OF ALL, (SPAIN COACH) SERGIO (SCARIOLO) HAS A LOT TO CHOOSE FROM."
"It is possible that some players never came to defend the national shirt because our generation has been playing, perhaps, many years and we have reduced the opportunities of other players who deserved it," he told Marca.
"These FIBA windows have been a great opportunity to let it be known that the national team is not only the 12-16 players that we have always been, but that there are many players in Spanish basketball who are at a great level and who have qualified us for the World Cup. Best of all, Sergio has a lot to choose from."
Gasol's younger brother, Marc, is also a big part of the national team. If he links up with Pau again, the two will have another chance to devastate opponents, as they did at times during FIBA EuroBasket 2017.
Marc Gasol, like Calderon, praised Spain's players for making the most of their opportunity to represent the country and clinch a spot in the World Cup.
"I think they've done a fantastic job," he said in Gigantes. "They have played as a group and above all, they have known how to suffer, which is something very important. A practically new team has won very big games and from my side I am very happy with the qualification they have achieved."
Marc Gasol is not surprised that Spain, even with less celebrated players, have done so well in the Qualifiers.
"Sometimes we forget about this because we have been with the same block of players for many years and that is a bit of a plug (road block) for the younger players and other players," he pointed out. "But the level and talent we have in Spain is something that those of us who follow the ACB (Liga Endesa) see very often but other people forget it and are surprised.
"I hope he (Scariolo) will trust even more in the home player because he really is one with a different feel."