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Upgrading from economy to business class: Six breakout players in Tokyo 2020
TOKYO (Japan) - If you make it to the Olympic Games, you know you did good in your career. But these guys aren't here just to participate, they are ready to use the biggest of stages to become global stars.
The entire world is watching, so maybe somebody manages to channel one's inner Bojan Bogdanovic. The Croatian natural-born scorer was always a respected player, but once he poured in 25.3 points per game at the 2016 Rio Olympics he evolved into a whole new superstar player. Fast forward to 2021, Bojan is now a lethal shooter for the Utah Jazz, playing on a 73 million dollar contract over a four-year period.
Bogdanovic was the breakout player in Brazil five years ago. Who could follow in his footsteps in Japan?
Jock Landale (Australia)
While he's off playing in the USA, doing us proud in the green & gold, we take a look back at @JockLandale's journey to becoming an NBL Champion, Finals MVP & Melbourne United MVP. pic.twitter.com/cKf7cDu2y2— Melbourne United (@MelbUnitedHQ) July 15, 2021
Date of birth: 25/10/1995
Club: Melbourne United (AUS)
Reaching the NBA is just a matter of when, not if for the Boomers' big guy. Jock Landale was productive in Australia's big three wins in the USA this summer. That comes as no surprise to all of us who watched him play all over the world - in the NCAA with Saint Mary's, in Europe with Partizan Belgrade and Zalgiris Kaunas, and, of course, in his homeland.
Landale was undoubtedly the player of the season in NBL, and even if he goes on to become the latest breakout player at these Olympics, he really doesn't care.
"I've never been one to focus on the individual accolades. It's something that for me, it takes away from the purity of the sport," Jock said after winning the Finals MVP award in Australia. "My most enjoyment comes out of just playing pure basketball, not having alternative motives or whatever it might be. This year was the closest I've been to that, a full year of just wanting to play basketball and win."
Guerschon Yabusele (France)
Date of birth: 17/12/1995
Club: ASVEL (Fra)
When you consider he's been a pro for the last eight years and already played for seven different clubs with the eighth one waiting in line, it's crazy that Guerschon Yabusele is still just a 25-year-old. The term upper body aggression comes to mind when trying to describe the French big guy who spent a pair of seasons with the Boston Celtics and over the last year-and-a-half he found consistency with ASVEL in his homeland.
"I can bring a lot of energy, on defense and offense. Just trying to help my team as much as possible. I'm never really focused on scoring, I'm only focused on winning games," Yabusele said when signing with the mighty Real Madrid this summer.
And with so much offensive firepower in the French national team as well, Yabusele's energy could be the X factor that takes France towards the podium and Guerschon personally to an elite level, too.
Moritz Wagner (Germany)
Moe Wagner came off the bench to devastating effect, his 28 points in as many minutes putting Brazil to the sword ⚔️— FIBA (@FIBA) July 4, 2021
For that, he is our @tcl_europe Player of the Game! 👏🇩🇪 #FIBAOQT pic.twitter.com/vIS4UdqyWZ
Date of birth: 26/04/1997
Club: Orlando Magic (USA)
Moritz Wagner needs this summer with the national team. His NBA journey so far has been full of ups and downs, but even the old up-and-down cliche doesn't begin to describe what kind of a year he had in 2021. Because he started it with the Washington Wizards, then played for the Boston Celtics, and before you knew it, he was a starter for the Orlando Magic.
Being bounced around like that could knock somebody's confidence. Not Moe's, though. He responded by leading Germany to the Olympics, by way of winning the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Split, Croatia, while scoring 28 points in 28 minutes against Brazil in the Final to pick up both the TCL Player of the Game award and the TISSOT MVP of the entire event in Split.
"I don't care about personal awards, to be honest," Moritz said after the Final. "I didn't even know there was an award, I don't play for that. I try to win games, and (in the Final) I scored more points than somebody else, but the next day, it could be somebody else, and then somebody else... That's what makes this team great."
It worked out perfectly for Wagner because his already amazing summer is now extended until early August. A confident Wagner is another one of those bolts of energy off the bench. You'll see him, you'll hear him, you'll remember him playing for Germany in 2021.
Gabe Vincent (Nigeria)
Date of birth: 14/06/1996
Club: Miami Heat (USA)
While one could go to lengths explaining the point guard's talents, it's probably easier to just write this: Gabe Vincent scored 21 points with six three-pointers to lead Nigeria to a win over the USA.
Luca Vildoza (Argentina)
Argentina's Luca Vildoza with a pair of fantastic baskets, scoring contested triples on back to back possessions.— Savant Hoops (@SavantHoops) July 13, 2021
Vildoza has shot lights out in these exhibition games, more content to come on the future New York Knick pic.twitter.com/Q4ImdxDgfA
Date of birth: 11/08/1995
Club: New York Knicks (USA)
Here's a tip: When Baskonia sign a young player from South America, he's probably capable of winning games on his own. Luca Vildoza was that guy for the Spanish side, signing with the team back in 2016, then joining the squad a year later, and becoming the go-to guy for the next four years.
His handles and trick shots are out of this world and when he is making his shots from deep it's a joy to watch him because his decision-making is elite. That's why he finally got a chance to showcase his talents in the NBA and will join the New York Knicks for the 2021-22 season.
Vildoza will be a joy to watch with Argentina because he can play alongside another ball-dominant guard like Facundo Campazzo or Nicolas Laprovittola. The one-two-three punch, combined with Gabriel Deck and Luis Scola in the frontcourt, pushed Argentina all the way to the Final at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019.
Vlatko Cancar (Slovenia)
The Vlatko Cancar bandwagon is filling up quickly. Timely 3s, Iso, cooking Valanciunas/Sabonis in the pick and pop. So disrespectful. Olympic Vlat coming for a rotation spot next year pic.twitter.com/QYYI6TAZ9Q— CT (@CTFazio24) July 6, 2021
Date of birth: 10/04/1997
Club: Denver Nuggets (USA)
Being a tall man who can shoot the ball, especially with his high point of release, it's always interesting to see Vlatko Cancar as a prospect for amazing things. His partnership with Luka Doncic was particularly amazing during the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Kaunas, Lithuania.
He averaged 11.8 points in four games on Slovenia's path towards the Tokyo Olympics, but his output in the Final was the best look for Vlatko Cancar over the last couple of years. Cancar had 18 points in the Final, knocking down 4-of-6 three-pointers, to finish the tournament shooting 56.3 percent from beyond the arc.
If Cancar can be the catch-and-shoot target for Doncic in Japan, he could be in a lot of talks regarding his future in the NBA. In modern-day basketball, hot shooting wings are low-risk, high-reward players, which works in favor of Cancar, who is still only 24.