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Ten eye-catching small forwards in November window
MIES (Switzerland) - A small forward can be the most dynamic player on the court, someone that thrives on fast breaks and throws down vicious dunks, scores from the perimeter or guards opponents' best man. He can be the heartbeat of the team.
Here are 10 small forwards you won't be able to take your eyes off of in the November window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifiers.
Bruno Caboclo, Brazil
"Small" isn't a word usually associated with the 2.06m (6ft 9in) Caboclo, who has a freakishly long 2.31m (7ft 7in) wingspan - similar to a stealthy American that sometimes referred to as the Slim Reaper. Yet the man once called The Brazilian Kevin Durant does play small forward and it's easy to understand everyone's enthusiasm over his game - and his potential. He's made plenty of eye-popping plays in his career and his efficiency was the highest in the Brazil team that finished runners-up at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Split this past summer.
Edin Atic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The statistics are impressive, with the 2.01m (6ft 7in) Atic scoring points from all over the court, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. What's most eye-catching about the 24-year-old is his motor, which seems to always be running at full throttle. Atic plays with a sense of urgency and it rubs off on his teammates. He was sensational while helping the Balkan country qualify for FIBA EuroBasket 2022.
Sadiel Rojas, Dominican Republic
Call him what you want, a loyal servant that always answers the national team call or the man that's willing to get down and dirty with any opponent, even if the person he's guarding looks twice his size. No other player - with the exception of Victor Liz - brings as much chutzpah to the floor for the Dominican Republic than the 1.93m (6ft 4in) Rojas, who averaged 22.4 minutes in 10 Americas Qualifiers games for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 and then helped his country finish 16th at the 32-team event in China.
Arnas Butkevicius, Lithuania
There's one feat on the list of accomplishments of the 29-year-old Klaipeda-born baller that will always be a testament to what he brings to a team. Butkevicius had a triple-double while playing for Neptunas in a victory over PAOK in the 2017-2018 season. Yes, folks, this guy helps teams win in a myriad of ways. Butkevicius played big minutes for Lithuania to help them qualify for the last World Cup and also made the final cut to take part in the tournament staged in China.
Joel Almeida, Cape Verde
No opponent stopped Joel Almeida at FIBA AfroBasket 2021, where the Cape Verde man was instrumental in the Blue Sharks' run to the Semi-Finals. The 1.92m (6ft 4in) talisman, who came to the rescue on numerous occasions with timely three-point shooting and explosive drives to the hoop, was certainly worthy of All-Star Five recognition. Almeida must be drinking from the fountain of youth because at the age of 35, he always seems to have an extra bounce in his step.
Elias Valtonen, Finland
The wing is on the rise, both with the Susijengi, and Baxi Manresa in Spain. The starting small forward of Finland since the summer of 2020, the 2.00m Valtonen excelled in wins over Switzerland and Georgia in the February window of the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers earlier this year. Nine games into the Spanish Liga Endesa season and he's hit 54.5 percent of his shots from deep, while also showing off his ability to slash and get to the rim. Look for the native of Eura to be in the national team for a long time to come.
Zoltan Perl, Hungary
Here's a pearl of wisdom: As Zoltan goes, so goes Hungary. A leading member of the national team for the past several years, Perl creates his own shot with his dribble and herky-jerky moves in and around the lane where he's lethal with mid-range jumpers. The leading scorer at 16.3 points per game for Falco Szombathely in the Basketball Champions League, he was second on the Hungary team in scoring and their leading assists man in their successful FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers campaign.
Thomas Scrubb, Canada
The veteran Scrubb, whose brother Phil is also in the national team, consistently provides scoring, defense and heady play for Canada. The left-handed shooter is averaging 9.5 points in just over 25 minutes per game in the Spanish Liga Endesa with Obradoiro. What one notices about Scrubb, who played for Canada at the World Cup in China, is that he never, ever stops. His effort is contagious for a Canada team that thrives on creating defensive pressure.
Mateusz Ponitka, Poland
The heart and soul of the Polish team, Ponitka was the team's most important player at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, where they made an unexpected run to the Quarter-Finals before falling to eventual champions Spain. He will score, rebound, dive on the floor for loose balls and often make hustle plays that are the difference between victory and defeat. The Zenit St Petersburg star will feature in the Poles' second game in November, against Germany in Lublin.
William Howard, France
It's taken a while for Howard to go from youth team player to senior team but that's the way it can be in a place like France, where supremely talented and hard-working ballers often have to bide their time before getting a run with Les Bleus. The country has as deep a talent pool as any national team program in international basketball. When Howard gets his minutes for France, expect the ASVEL man to hit the ground running. He's averaging more than 22 minutes per game in the EuroLeague and contributing positively in all statistical categories in France's Betclic Elite competition.