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Top five players to keep an eye on at the Americas Qualifiers
MIAMI (United States) – With the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers kicking off, each group is loaded with talent from across the Americas region that will be fighting for one of seven spots to qualify for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Here are five key players to watch during the first window of the qualifying tournament.
Argentina has been a dominant basketball country for years, with all-time stars like Luis Scola and Facu Campazzo leading them to World Cups and Olympic Games, but another star to watch out for is Delfino. With two Olympic medals, NBA experience and decades playing for Argentina, the veteran is prepared to secure another World Cup berth for his country.
Delfino is known for his ability to hit shots accurately from beyond the arc, and is shooting 43 percent in Lega Serie A, averaging 15.6 points per game. Delfino is also averaging 3.2 assists per game, a career high in his international basketball career, with his court vision increasing to an elite level that will help Argentina when they face opponents like Venezuela in Group A.
Another seasoned veteran for Brazil, Benite represented his home country during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 averaging 9.6 points per game including a dominant 21-point performance against fellow Americas powerhouse USA in the second round of the tournament. Benite also shot 50 percent from the three-point arc during the competition.
Only getting better with age, Benite was voted as the MVP of the Basketball Champions League Final 8 as he was the top scorer of the final for San Pablo Burgos as they won their second title. Benite scored at least 15 points in each of the final four games, including a 26-point quarter-final performance and will help Brazil offensively as they take on Group B with Uruguay, Colombia and Chile.
The power forward has plenty of experience representing Canada when facing other competition from the Americas, most recently at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 where he averaged 16.4 points per game. Wiltjer had a 29-point performance in Canada’s win over Jordan as well as tipping in 18 points in their loss to Germany.
Wiltjer finished in the top 15 of points per game, leading Canada and shooting over 40 percent from all areas of the floor. His size and ability to shoot will help Canada get shots off not only from the paint but ranging to the three-point line, as Canada looks to claim another trip to the World Cup.
Pineiro has previous World Cup experience as part of Puerto Rico’s roster in 2019. This time he is expected to play more minutes as he consistently contributed against tough competitors such as Spain, Serbia and Italy and still shot 50 percent from the floor at just 24 years old.
Able to come off the bench or start and have the same impact on the game, Pineiro has improved thanks to experience with Basketball Champions League, NBA G League and especially with the Puerto Rico national team during the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers where he almost doubled his prior score line with an average of 15 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in two games against a tough USA team.
Thomas has become a household name in the USA, and not just for his time with the Boston Celtics or other NBA teams. Thomas was one of the key players for USA’s AmeriCup qualifiers run in February of 2021, averaging 14 points per game to help secure their spot for 2022.
The guard played only two games during the February window but proved what a threat he can be on the floor when he went off for 19 points against the Bahamas in just 22 minutes of play. Thomas finished shooting 55.6 percent, and the guard is known for his fast-paced play and ability to find the rim which will make USA tough to beat in Group D action.