Nowitzki, Horford, Blatche, McCalebb - and now, Mexico's new talisman Cruz
SPLIT (Croatia) - There is nothing unusual about elite level individual performances in the history of various FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. But 30 point games don't come around very often and Francisco Cruz's Tuesday night effort had him joining elite company.
Cruz torched Germany with 30 points, 18 of them coming in the first half, as he showed the world how he became the top scorer of the Turkish Basketbol Super Ligi last season by averaging nearly 20 points per game, with more than five assists also to his name.
The man they call Pako admitted his 30-point outing felt like a bittersweet moment - sweet because of this incredible landmark, bitter because not even the best of scorers care about the numbers if they end up with an L instead of a W.
"It doesn't matter when you don't win. But we competed on a high level. We committed a lot of mistakes, that cost us the game, but I think we're gonna feel good for (Wednesday), and we're gonna be ready for Russia," Cruz said after a narrow defeat against Germany.
In fact, it was another German holding the modern-day record in FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. Dirk Nowitzki scored 35 points against New Zealand in 2008, backing that tally up with two more 30-point games at the same event: a 32-point performance against Puerto Rico and a 30-point outing versus Croatia.
Bo McCalebb enjoyed his time with North Macedonia, and back in 2012, he also scored 35 points, against the Dominican Republic. But the Dominican Republic had a high scoring threat of their own nine years ago, as Al Horford joined the 30 Point Club with a 30-piece against Korea.
The only other man to score 30 or more in this - or a similar - format was Andray Blatche, against New Zealand in 2016, but he couldn't prevent a loss for the Gilas Pilipinas.
All of the aforementioned scorers are miles away from the highest-scoring performance in the history of other Olympic Qualifiers. Back in 1964, in a tournament in Japan, Siem Liem Siong put up 59 points. Amazingly, that effort, too, was not enough as Siong and Indonesia lost 99-96 to Cuba.