While a record 45 current NBA players will be playing for the 24 countries, many fans might catch their first glimpse of more than a handful of guys who may soon be gracing the court of an NBA team near you.
NBA fans saw the future of Greece’s national team this past season as Giannis Antetokounmpo wowed the league with his amazing versatility and athleticism with the Milwaukee Bucks. Now the “Greek Freak” makes his debut with the Hellas senior national team, where is nickname is Giannaki (Young Giannis).
His teammate with Greece is Kostas Papanikolaou, who will make the big step to the NBA this up-coming season with the Houston Rockets. Papanikolaou is hardly a new name for many fans who know the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. The small forward helped Olympicacos to two straight Euroleague titles and then moved to Barcelona last season and reached the Final Four.
But Papanikolaou – and the rest of the Greek team – has spent the summer listening to the 19-year-old Antetokounmpo tell his tales about his rookie season in the NBA.
The FIBA World Cup should be must-see watching for Utah Jazz fans, who have three players in Spain – France’s Rudy Gobert and two others who will be making their NBA debuts next season. Dante Exum is of course the thrill-a-minute first round pick out of Australia who many Jazz fans have never seen play. Exum is the second-youngest player at Spain 2014 – the one younger kid coming soon – but Jazz fans should like what they see.
Actually, Australia jersey sellers might see a double-rush of purchases from Utah as the Jazz fans also will be watching big man Brock Motum play for the Boomers as well. Utah faithful may be familiar with the 6’10” Australian as he went to Washington State, who played against the Utah Utes in the Pac-12.
Brooklyn Nets fans meanwhile have been hearing tales about this promising Croatian talent Bojan Bogdanovic since he was acquired after the 2011 NBA Draft. After years of getting fine-tuning his game in Europe and in the end a bit of indecision, Bogdanovic will finally make his much-expected trip Stateside this fall. But before that, the 23-year-old has one thing to do – hopefully lead a massively-talented Croatia to the podium in Spain.
Bogdanovic has a pair of Croatian teammates who will very likely be big names in the very near future – and probably in the NBA. Dario Saric was already drafted last June by the Philadelphia 76ers. The 20-year-old forward has been on the radars of draft nuts for years as has guard Mario Hezonja, who will be making his senior national team debut as a 19-year-old. 76ers fans can look forward to Saric really playing a major role in his third summer with Croatia’s men’s side while Hezonja really is just in Spain to pick up experience of being with the big team. Down the road though, Hezonja is considered a lottery pick when he finally makes himself available.
There are other youngsters in Spain who will be rising on draft boards and basketball fans’ radars.
The youngest player in the tournament is Ukraine’s 17-year-old Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who doesn’t turn 18 until June 2015. The University of Kansas-bound guard is coming off an MVP performance in helping Ukraine earn promotion at the U18 European Championship Division B.
Other players to watch is 19-year-old Cedi Osman of Turkey, who has already earned minutes in the Euroleague for Anadolu Efes Istanbul, New Zealand’s Tai Webster of Nebraska, Slovenia’s Aleksej Nikolic, Moustafa Elmekawi of Egypt and Behnam Yakhchali of Iran.