Brazil's rough diamond Caboclo can't wait to face the Greek Freak in China
ANAPOLIS/BELEM DO PARA (Brazil) - Brazil head coach Aleksandar Petrovic has once revealed that he knew how to stop Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo, and forward Bruno Caboclo insists the matchup against the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player is one he can't wait for.
Although Caboclo had a breakthrough season with the NBA outfit Memphis Grizzlies, in which he averaged career-highs of 8.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 23.5 minutes per game, he didn't get the chance to face the Greek Freak in the Regular Season.
Judging by Caboclo's recent performances at Brazil's training camp in Anapolis and Belem do Para, the 23-year-old sits in the driving seat to secure his spot on the final roster for the 32-nation FIBA Basketball World Cup in China later this month.
"HE CAN SPREAD THE FLOOR, HE CAN ATTACK THE RIM, HE CAN SHOOT BUT MORE IMPORTANT IS THE FACT THAT HE CAN DO A LOT OF THINGS DEFENSIVELY."
And obviously the chances of Caboclo facing Antetokounmpo seem more realistic than ever before with the South Americans drawn into Group F alongside Greece, Montenegro and New Zealand. Greece and Brazil will meet up on Tuesday, September 3 on the second game day of the Group Phase.
"Obviously, he is one of the best players in the world and was named the NBAMVP this past season, but I treat him like any other player," the 2.06m (6ft 9in) forward told FIBA.basketball. "To play against him will be a huge challenge for me, but I am looking forward to the challenge."
In their first friendly warm-up game on European soil before the World Cup, on Wednesday, August 15, Caboclo came up with 11 points and three rebounds as Brazil beat Argentina 92-89.
Bruno Caboclo last featured for Brazil in official FIBA competititons in 2017
Now coach of Caboclo and Co. with Brazil, Petrovic already has a victory against a Antetokounmpo-led side in his resume from when Croatia squeezed past Greece 66-61 in the Semi-Finals of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifier Tournament in Italy.
Antetokounmpo was held to 3-of-14 shooting from the field, finishing the contest with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 turnovers.
"I don't think that the game against Greece is unwinnable," Petrovic said after the draw last March. "For us, it'll be fundamental to start the World Cup winning our first game [against New Zealand]."
Com Benite cirúrgico no último quarto, Seleção Brasileira bate a Argentina e estreia com a mão direita no Torneio de Lyon. Confira a matéria no nosso site: https://t.co/OOq4oUaRAS 👏🏀🇧🇷️— Basquete Brasil (@basquetebrasil) August 15, 2019
📸 Bellenger/IS/FFBB pic.twitter.com/droYa2HhIy
For Caboclo, who is set to make his first appearance for Brazil's since 2017, this year's World Cup could be his international career changer. And in the process he hopes to help revitalize his country's World Cup fortunes.
"I am ready to play for the national team again," Caboclo explained. "I don't think I am in great shape just yet, but I will be working hard and I am sure that I will be able to help Brazil achieve a big result in the World Cup.
"I look at my return to the national team as if it were my first time. Last time I played for Brazil I was a bit immature; it doesn't count to me. It's now a new chapter in my life now. From now on I will always be ready to help my country."
.@Bruno_Caboclo fechou inúmeras portas nessa última temporada! Confira os 10 MELHORES TOCOS da campanha do brasileiro com o @memgrizz. Qual rejeição foi a mais linda? 🚫🇧🇷 #GrindCity pic.twitter.com/bZMz68DhNn— NBA Brasil (@NBABrasil) July 21, 2019
Talking about Cabolo, Petrovic insisted that he looks forward to seeing how he engages playing five-on-five.
"He has already demonstrated his willingness and he is fully integrated in our team. Over the last six months he played ( for Memphis Grizzlies) in a role that we need him to in the national team," he said. "He can spread the floor, he can attack the rim, he can shoot, but more importantly he can do a lot of things defensively. He is a complete player, but we have to be patient and try to integrate him in our offensive play system."
On August 15-17, the South Americans are taking part in a four-nation tournament in Lyon, where they take on hosts France, Argentina and Montenegro. It's after the tournament that head coach Aleksandar Petrovic hopes to decide the final roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.