30 August, 2014
14 September
12 Rudy GOBERT (France)
to read

Youngsters take center stage at Spain 2014

MADRID (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

That was one conclusion to be drawn from some of the performances at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

From Isaac Fotu of New Zealand to Kyrie Irving of the USA, players at the beginning of their international careers put on tremendous displays.

"One good thing about being young is that you are not experienced enough to know you cannot possibly do the things you are doing,” author Gene Brown once wrote.

Maybe that’s why so many young players showed they are capable of playing at the highest level of the international game.

They felt little or no pressure.

The United States had the youngest team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, yet they played with fire, intelligence, skill and talent.

The Americans rolled to the title, with Turkey giving them their closest game, in the Group Phase.

The best part of all of this for international basketball fans is that these youngsters are sure to have starring roles in future tournaments.

Here are some of the rising talents that raised eyebrows at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

FIBA Oceania

Isaac Fotu, New Zealand

The 2.03m forward electrified the crowds in Bilbao and Barcelona. A 20-year-old who plays American college basketball for the University of Hawaii, Fotu’s role with the Tall Blacks grew in importance as the tournament wore on. Facing a do-or-die situation in the Group Phase, the Kiwis got 10 points and 10 rebounds from Fotu in a win over Ukraine and he followed that up with 18 points and eight boards in a narrow win over Finland. Those results lifted the New Zealanders into the Round of 16. Fotu, whose facial expression remained calm and stoic no matter what the situation, let the game come to him. He shot 60.5 percent from the floor, including 41.7 percent beyond the arc.

FIBA Africa

Yanick Moreira, Angola

The 2.11m center who only turned 23 at the end of July - a month before the start of the FIBA Basketball World Cup - showed no lingering effects of the sprained MCL in his right knee that plagued him earlier this year in American college basketball. The Southern Methodist University (SMU) Mustangs big man, whose coach is former USA national team boss Larry Brown, had a couple of double-doubles in points and rebounds for the African champions. Moreira signed off with an eye-popping 38 points, 15 rebounds, a block and a steal for Angola in their last Group D game, a 91-83 win over Australia.


Lee Jonghyun, Korea

The 2.06m center figures to be in the national team set-up for a long time. The 20-year-old shot 54.5 percent from the field and had 12 and 10 points, respectively, in games against Slovenia and Mexico. Lee had already played for the Koreans at the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament and the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. He is part of the core of Korea’s squad, along with Kim Mingoo (23) once the all-tournament point guard from last year’s FIBA Asia Championship returns to action after recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident.

FIBA Europe

Rudy Gobert, France

The 2.15m center celebrated his 22nd birthday on 26 June and a couple of months later revealed himself to be one of the biggest talents - both literally and figuratively - in international basketball. Gobert warmed up for his second campaign with the Utah Jazz by averaging 4.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. He was one of the key men in France’s 65-52 upset of tournament hosts Spain in the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Gobert had 13 rebounds to go with his five points in that game and also one of the biggest blocks in French national team history. Spain’s top player, Pau Gasol, backed Gobert into the lane and then put up a jump hook that the youngster swatted with his left hand. 

FIBA Americas

Kyrie Irving, USA

The starting point guard, just 22, was solid for the United States from start to finish. His most memorable performances came at the end for the Americans in their wins over Slovenia, Lithuania and Serbia when he averaged 18.7ppg. In a 119-76 Quarter-Final triumph over Slovenia, Irving had four steals. In a 96-68 Semi-Final victory over Lithuania, the 1.90m playmaker scored 18 points and in the 129-92 victory over Serbia in the title game, Irving was six of six from long range and finished with 26 points. He shot 60.9 percent from behind the arc and averaged almost two steals per game. Irving named deservedly named the Most Valuable Player of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.