2006 World Championships Recap

September 3rd, 2006
While the FIBA rankings at the end of the World Championships still state that the U.S. is the top team in the world, that is hardly the case.  After leaving Japan with only a bronze medal to show for their efforts, this will be the third straight World Championships in which the States has yet to back up their claim as the superior basketball country.  The commonly used expression “that the rest of the world has caught up to the U.S.” on the basketball court is dead wrong – the rest of the world has PASSED the U.S. on the court.


This tournament has shown that a team full of NBA stars won’t guarantee you a gold medal.  It has also shown that playing 1 versus 5 on offense, having a “one pass then jack up a three pointer” offensive playbook or having no clue how to guard pick-and-rolls will get you beat. 


Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, we can get into the real purpose of this column.  In my last article, I highlighted a bunch of Young Guns (international draft prospects and NCAA players) that would be participating in Japan.  The results for these youngsters ran the gamut of not even making their countries final rosters for the tourney to playing a key role for the gold medal winners.  Without further ado, or ranting on my part, here is the CHN Young Guns All-Tournament Team.


Young Gun All-Tournament Team


Guard - Rudy FernandezSpain – 9gms, 9.1ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.4spg - Player of the Tournament


While winning the Gold medal for his country and getting to cut down the net was surely a great thrill, Rudy probably is far more excited about earning this honor from CHN.  The 21-year-old Fernandez showed off his great athleticism and basketball instincts in the tournament, with big games against Panama (21pts, 4rpg, 4-4 3pts) and in the knockout round versus Serbia (18pts, 3rpg, 3-6 3pts).  While his minutes were limited in the team’s two medal round games due to the veterans playing ahead of him, Rudy has shown that he is indeed a top shelf NBA prospect.


Guard - Marco BelinelliItaly6gms, 13.5ppg, 1.7apg, 1.5rpg


Despite some inconsistent play and a poor shooting touch, Belinelli still made a bigger name for himself in Japan.  Most of that is due to his monster 25-point game versus the U.S.  He also poured in 26 points in a victory over Slovenia.


Forward - Craig BradshawNew Zealand – 6gms, 11.0ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.3apg


Winthrop’s Bradshaw turned out to be all that was advertised when his countries’ basketball federation called him an “emerging superstar” before the tourney.  Bradshaw was one of the key factors that allowed New Zealand to advance to the round of 16.


Forward - Ekene Ibekwe – Nigeria – 6gms - 8.7ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.3bpg


Ibekwe’s play, along with Nigeria’s, was a pleasant surprise in Japan.  Nigeria advanced out of a very difficult opening round group to eventually lose by 1 point to Germany in the round of 16.  Maryland’s Ibekwe did all he could to knock of Germany – 22 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks.  He ended the tournament tied for sixth in blocked shots.


Forward/Center - Tiago Splitter – Brazil – 5gms - 16.4ppg, 6.6rpg, 1.2spg


It was a very disappointing showing for a young yet very talented Brazilian squad.  Despite only winning 1 game, Splitter solidified his status as a very high lottery pick in an upcoming NBA draft.  He never scored less than 13 in a game and he led the Brazilian’s in scoring and was second in rebounding.  His scoring average was tenth best in the whole championships.