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URU - Granger now in the mix

MADRID (FIBA Americas Championship/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Basketball fans in Uruguay have known the name Granger for many, many years.

New Jersey-born Jeff Granger, who played professionally in Uruguay in the early 1980s, took citizenship in the country and turned out for the national side.

Now his Montevideo-born son, Jayson, has embarked on his national team career.

A 1.86m guard who left home at the age of 16 to join the famous Spanish club Estudiantes in Madrid, Jayson is now 23 and looking as if he'll be a lynchpin in the Uruguay team for many years to come.

Last summer, he competed at the South American Championship for Men and played big minutes, averaging 12.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

"It was great, great experience," Jayson said to FIBA.com.

"I had been waiting for the opportunity since a long time ago and I can't wait for this summer."

This summer, of course, is when the FIBA Americas Championship will be staged in Caracas, Venezuela.

It will be a qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

Bid to join elite

Uruguay will have to play their best basketball to have a chance of a top-four finish at the FIBA Americas Championship, which is needed to advance to next year’s 24-team tournament.

In Caracas, they will play in Group A, going up against Puerto Rico, Canada, Jamaica and Brazil.

The top four sides will advance to the second phase and meet the best four from Group B, which includes Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Paraguay.

The four teams that have the best records advance to the Semi-Finals of the FIBA Americas Championship and clinch places in the World Cup.

"I think this year," Jayson said, "we can do a good surprise because we have a new coach (Pablo Lopez), new players.

"We have a lot of talent.

"We’ve got to play defense and have to work hard."

Closing the gap on the other teams ranked higher than Uruguay in the FIBA Americas is a tall order.

The United States currently top the FIBA Ranking Men.

They qualified for the World Cup as Olympic champions and won't play at the FIBA Americas Championship.

Argentina (3rd), Brazil (9th), Puerto Rico (19th), Venezuela (24th), Canada (26th), the Dominican Republic (27th) and Panama (28th) are all ranked above Uruguay (29th) on the world ladder.

"We just have to keep learning because it’s going to be tough," Jayson said.

"We've got energy and we hope we can make it to the World Cup."

Future uncertain

Granger is well known for being a devoted player at Estudiantes, but he says there is nothing quite like representing one's country.

"I’ve been here (Estudiantes) since I was 16 but you know, I’m never going to forget about Uruguay," he said.

"All my friends, all my family are there, so every time I have the opportunity to go back, it’s good."

It remains to be seen if Granger will return to Estu after this season.

There is speculation that he could part ways with the team.

"This is my last year," he said.

"I've been here seven years, but I've got to keep growing.

"I have a lot of things to learn. We’ll see what happens."

As for his dad, Jayson says the Uruguay legend is his biggest fan.

"My father watched me at the South American Championship," he said.

"Everywhere I play, everywhere I go - he tries to watch me."