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14 Gabriel Deck (ARG)
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From humble beginnings to the World Cup, Deck's star on the rise with Argentina

MADRID (Spain) - Gabriel Deck has gone from playing basketball on a dirt court in his backyard as a boy to international stardom with Argentina.

He came off the bench and had a game-high 24 points for Argentina in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Final, a performance that contributed to him being the team's second leading scorer at 13.3 points per game in the tournament. His efficiency rating of 13.1 was third best for Argentina.

Deck's overall performance, which helped Argentina qualify for next year's Olympics, is truly inspirational considering where he has come from and his start in the game. He didn't begin playing basketball on the hardwood in gyms or on outdoor cement courts. No, his start was far more basic. 

"We spent the afternoons playing with friends, in the back of my house, on a dirt floor," Deck said.

His father, Deck says, created a basket that he made with the steering wheel of a tractor and a piece of wood, which he used as a backboard.

"It was a unique stadium," he said, remembering that time of his life. "Amazing. There is a lot of that court still in my current game. The competitiveness we had there was incredible. You always wanted to win and when you lost, there were tears."

Deck says the combative spirit he had in his backyard is still with him when he plays for Argentina

Deck began to play organized basketball and was eventually invited to the youth national team program.

In 2012, at the FIBA U17 World Cup in Latvia, he led the tournament in scoring and was named to the All-Star Five.

After competing with Argentina at the 2016 Rio Games but playing only sparingly, Deck's career took a huge turn. In 2018, while playing for Argentine side San Lorenzo, he elevated his game in the FIBA Liga de las Americas. The longer the competition went on, the better he got.

Deck capped a magnificent event with 22 points and 10 rebounds in San Lorenzo's 79-71 title victory over Mogi das Cruzes. He was named Grand Final MVP. Deck averaged 19.1 points and 5.0 rebounds during his club's unbeaten run in the competition.

Now, after his stunning performance at the World Cup, Deck has returned to Real Madrid for his second season and taken his game to an even higher level. Showing the same sort of confidence that he displayed in China, Deck was the hero over the weekend. Handed the ball in the final seconds of a tie game at Baskonia, he drilled a game-winning jumper to lift his team to a perfect 7-0 in the Spanish Liga Endesa.

When Deck one day reflects his life, and his career, there is no doubt going to be a lot to savor and especially from the past few years.

Yes, it would have been nice to have a World Cup triumph to celebrate yet it was not meant to be. Spain were the better team in the Final.

"Hopefully we will be back on another podium and we can achieve it later," he said to El Mundo.

Who knows? Maybe Deck and Argentina will have a repeat of what happened the last time they finished runners-up at a World Cup. In 2002, they fell in overtime to Yugoslavia at the World Cup in Indianapolis and at the very next Olympics, in Athens, won the gold medal.