17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
Sergio Scariolo (ESP)
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BCL players shine as Sergio Scariolo puts emphasis on international experience

MIES (Switzerland) - With Ricky Rubio returning to the lineup, it was expected all of the lights would be on the Spanish team in the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers. Instead, an UCAM Murcia player stole the limelight in the premiere of Group C.

Rodions Kurucs had a fourth quarter to remember, getting two gigantic dunks, a couple of steals to silence the 10,000 strong crowd in Zaragoza, and dished out a sweet assist to keep Spain at bay and lead Latvia to an upset win on the road.

Beyond his numbers, which indicated Latvia were a +17 team with him on the floor in a four-point win, it was the Latvian forward's sheer physical dominance which stood out. Players of more storied clubs did not look like difference-makers compared to Murcia's Swiss army knife.

"The difference of physicality in the rosters is very clear, and also the difference in confidence," Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo explained.

When a figure such as the coach of the reigning EuroBasket champions talks about basketball, it's best to just listen. Scariolo would rather have personnel with minutes and roles in international competitions over bigger names on paper who have lesser roles at their clubs.

"We have a lot of players playing very, very little or nothing with their teams. Any level, you can play EuroLeague, EuroCup, (Basketball) Champions League, we saw it in the Windows. If you are playing with a role in your team, with confidence, if you have minutes and playing time, then it doesn't matter the level," Scariolo added.

Kurucs wasn't the only one who carried over that BCL level to national team surroundings. His teammate Janis Timma, who played in the BCL with Darussafaka Lassa this season, hit a dagger-three in front of the Spanish bench, and there were plenty of other BCL players shining bright all over the continent on Thursday and Friday.

Galatasaray EKMAS star Klemen Prepelic was the top scorer on Game Day 1 with 30 points, and he also had 9 assists in Slovenia's 87-73 win over Ukraine. Bertram Derthona Tortona's Retin Obasohan had 22 points for Belgium, PAOK mateco's Elvar Fridriksson did his usual thing by getting a bit of everything done for Iceland, finishing with 13 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in a 70-65 win over Hungary.

Unicaja's Kendrick Perry scored 16 points for Montenegro, Igokea m:tel's Edin Atic had 7 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Galatasaray's Akwasi Yeboah scored 17 for Great Britain, facing Cholet Basket big guy Emmanuel Nzekwesi who had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists for the Netherlands.

The national team Windows are tough. Teams have to come up with something in a short span, with virtually no time to try out new schemes in practices. Most of the teams struggle with that, even perennial medal favorites like Scariolo's Spain, making international experience worth its weight in gold.

That is why a competition such as the BCL, which contributes to player growth around Europe, brings out a new level of confidence in a lot of these players and makes them kings for a day or two for their respective countries.

The Qualifiers continue on Sunday and Monday after a day off on Saturday. You can follow them here, but do come back in early March, as the BCL Round of 16 tips off.