Breakout Stars: 13 players who elevated their status at the World Cup
MANILA (Philippines) - Players with all kinds of background and stature reached an even higher level in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
Here are 13 players who broke out at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
Arturs Zagars - Latvia
Birth date: April 21, 2000 (23 years old)
Height: 190cm / 6'3"
Club: Free Agent
An All-Tournament Team member of the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018 was what he was known for both internationally and in Latvia. Different setbacks had kept him from making his mark at the professional level until he shed all the doubts in this World Cup. Not only did Latvia succeed with Zagars as their primary creator, but the 23-year-old also proved that he belongs among the very best point guards on the planet. His duel with his former boss Dennis Schroder in the Quarter-Finals was superb.
The 12.4 points and 7.4 assists per game and his new World Cup record only say as much about his exquisite trickery against every defense he faced. He has not signed officially with a club yet but a lot of rumors circulate now about him and some of the biggest european clubs.
Josh Giddey - Australia
Birth date: October 10, 2002 (20 years old)
Height: 203cm (6'8")
Club: Oklahoma City Thunder (USA)
The recipient of the first Wanda Rising Star Award has to have had some breakout magic by definition, right? NBA fans might think that Giddey's performance was to be expected, however, coming in and becoming the main focal point for a proud veteran Boomers squad is no small feat.
The 2.03M (6'8") point guard flirted with triple-doubles from the very opening game, showed off the clutch gene when things got a bit uncertain against Japan and drew plenty of praise from Australia head coach Brian Goorjian. Best scorer and passer for the Boomers at the World Cup, he will now be the undisputed leader for his nation for years to come.
Carlik Jones - South Sudan
Birth date: December 23, 1997 (25 years old)
Height: 183cm (6'0")
Club: Chicago Bulls (USA)
There were plenty of NBA players who had impressive performances and stats. However, Carlik Jones not only had the numbers to back him up but also the weight of a new country in South Sudan relying on him for much-needed point guard duties.
Their clinched spot in Paris 2024 says as much. Jones thrived as a floor general who could score efficiently at a moment's notice (50.9% from two-point range and 41.7% from three), while also involving his teammates in the process. Averaging a double-double of 20.4 points and 10.4 assists per game is some serious business. No one could have expected that. Jones, in fact, is the first player to average 10 or more assists in World Cup history.
Tremont Waters - Puerto Rico
Birth date: January 10, 1998 (25 years old)
Height: 180cm (5'11")
Club: Gigantes de Carolina (PUR)
Few can interfere with whatever Tremont Waters has decided to do next. His explosive effort of 37 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals against the Dominican Republic contained plenty of proof in this matter. Waters made it known that at his best he's a true one-man wrecking crew with the talent to make shots from way downtown and of any other difficulty level. His knack for forcing turnovers was an extra annoyance for any opponent and an additional plus for Waters's case as a leader on this athletic Puerto Rico squad.
Andres Feliz - Dominican Republic
Birth date: July 15, 1997 (26 years old)
Height: 183cm (6'0")
Club: Club Joventut Badalona (ESP)
There were moments where it seemed like Andres Feliz was ready to break every possible World Cup record that is connected with three-point shooting. That was evident in his 24-point performance against Italy that saw Feliz go 7-10 from downtown and helped the Dominican Republic win their group. Furthermore, he never cooled off, hitting 65.2% of his three-pointers, averaging 16.0 points per game throughout the World Cup, and adding his usual off-the-dribble game that included 4.8 assists per contest.
Yago Santos - Brazil
Birth date: March 9, 1999 (24 years old)
Height: 178cm (5'10")
Club: KK Red Star (SRB)
With Raul Neto's participation in the World Cup ending due to an unfortunate injury, there could have been questions about Brazil's backcourt depth. Yago Santos rendered all of those doubts foolish.
Their capable big men found themselves perfect opportunities to score the ball after the point guard's dimes, while Santos himself punished anyone who dared to leave him open behind the three-point arch. The 24-year-old's 14.8 points and 7.2 assists per game were among the best statlines for a guard in this tournament.
Andrejs Grazulis - Latvia
Birth date: July 21, 1993 (30 years old)
Height: 202cm (6'8")
Club: Aquila Basket Trento (ITA)
There were not only a couple of better-known names in Latvia's frontcourt depth, but also plenty of good performers in the World Cup. However, it was Andrejs Grazulis who had the type of major event where everything seemingly went his way. The forward had a stretch with 24 points (on 11-15 shooting) against Brazil and then 28 points (on 12-13 shooting) a few days later, where almost every single push shot was nothing but net. His main value, though, still lies on defense with his ability to guard players across numerous positions.
Yuki Kawamura - Japan
Birth date: May 2, 2001 (22 years old)
Height: 172cm (5'8")
Club: Yokohama B-Corsairs (JPN)
There certainly were some ups and downs, however, Yuki Kawamura stepped up for some very impressive performances that helped Japan land a spot for Paris 2024. The quick point guard showed that it's quite a task for a defender to stay in front of Kawamura.
Once he got going, you could see the opposition turning its heads, trying to keep up with the next decision he was about to make. Kawamura's 7.6 assists per game rank him 3rd in the whole World Cup, but you also can't discount his scoring chops and the 13.6 points per contest.
Rokas Jokubaitis - Lithuania
Birth date: November 19, 2000 (22 years old)
Height: 194cm (6'4")
Club: FC Barcelona (ESP)
We have already gotten used to the same question about who will play point guard for Lithuania whenever Mantas Kalnietis isn't available. Well, this World Cup certainly proved that the 22-year-old Rokas Jokubaitis is ready to take up the mantle. What first was a shaky debut against Egypt turned into two 19-point and 6-assist efforts against Montenegro and Greece, which ultimately led to their Quarter-Final berth. His lefty stroke led to 12.6 points per game, while his teammates enjoyed his ability to dish out 5.8 assists per game.
Andreas Obst - Germany
Birth date: July 13, 1996 (27 years old)
Height: 191cm (6'3")
Club: Bayern Munchen (GER)
There are no OBST-acles to being a breakout star in FIBA EuroBasket 2022 and then doubling down on that for the team that hoisted up the World Cup trophy. Plenty of people already knew that Obst is the kind of shooter that you never leave open, which is reflected in his 10.4 points per game average on 44.7% shooting from three-point range. However, this World Cup gave that extra amount of evidence about how well Obst can handle major events, with his 24 points and 6 assists against USA being the prime example of that.
Nikola Jovic - Serbia
Birth date: June 9, 2003 (20 years old)
Height: 208cm (6'10")
Club: Miami Heat (USA)
Jovic might have been one excellent performance away from seriously endangering Giddey's case for the Wanda Rising Star Award. Experienced coach Svetislav Pesic showed no doubts about entrusting Jovic with a starting role, which the 20-year-old used to his advantage for 10.1 points per game and some fantastic shooting numbers. His 25-point effort on 9-of-9 shooting from the field against South Sudan was a prime example of what a dangerous forward Serbia have in their cards for many years to come.
Aleksa Avramovic - Serbia
Birth date: October 25, 1994 (28 years old)
Height: 192cm (6'4")
Club: Partizan NIS (SRB)
Avramovic's name might have rung out the loudest after he picked the pockets of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett in one-on-one situations in the Semi-Final, but he had been Serbia's steady backcourt option since the opening game of the tournament.
That being said, there's something beautiful about Avramovic averaging 11.3 points per game off the bench, yet his defense is the part of the game that attracts the most attention. All of that was capped off with an important 21 points in the Final (16 in the fourth quarter) that Serbia ultimately lost in the clutch. But it was only because of him that there was a clutch situation at the end. Impressive.
Rondae Hollis Jefferson - Jordan
Birth date: January 3, 1995 (28 years old)
Height: 198cm (6'6")
Club: Atleticos de San German (PUR)
We don't want to get carried away with the Kobe Bryant comparisons, just like RHJ himself remains down to earth about it. However, the experience with Jordan seemingly unleashed all the vast potential that Hollis Jefferson has as an offensive focal point. The one-of-a-kind fadeaways and highlight dunks might have impressed social media users, yet you have to acknowledge his whole body of work. RHJ averaged 23.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game, tirelessly getting to the line for 11.8 free throw attempts per game.