Olympic Basketball Preview – The Young Guns

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Men’s Olympic basketball is just that – men’s basketball, not boy’s.  The 12 nations that are competing in this year’s Olympic basketball tournament have rosters chock full of veterans – real men with hair on their chests.  There is no room for boys in the Olympics (unless the evil, meddling David Stern has his way and puts an age cap of 23 on future Olympic team rosters).  However, there are a handful of young stars who have cracked their national teams’ rosters and will be competing in London starting this weekend.  Here are five who we have yet to see play in the NBA, but we may very soon.

Matthew Dellavedova – Australia

The 6’3″ do-it-all guard is the reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year and will be returning for his senior season at Saint Mary’s (CA) in the fall.  Dellavedova has been a member of the Boomer’s national team since he was 19 (in 2009) and starred for their U-19 Team.  Capable of playing either backcourt position, he’ll probably get quality minutes backing up San Antonio’s Patty Mills at the point in London.  While an outstanding college player, Dellavedova isn’t considered an NBA prospect.

Raul Neto – Brazil

Projected as a second round pick in next June’s NBA Draft, 20-year-old Raul Neto (aka Raulzinho) is a quick, aggressive point guard.  He spent this past season playing in the best domestic league in the world outside of the U.S., Spain’s ACB, and did quite well (17.2 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 2.0 apg, 1.1 spg). A pro player since he was 15 (and a Brazilian National Team member since he was 18), Raulzinho is currently slotted as the third-string point guard for the Brazilians, so he probably won’t be getting much burn in London.

Ailun Guo – China

After starring for the Chinese Under 17 National Team in 2010, the 6’4″ Guo was added to the senior National Team for the 2010 FIBA World Championships…. at the tender age of 16! An extremely fast player, and crafty dribbler, Guo can really fill it up (22.4 ppg to lead the 2010 Under 17 World Championships).  Considered one of the top international draft prospects for his age, Guo played well in action leading up to the Olympics so hopefully we’ll get a peek at his skills on the big stage. 

Jonas Valanciunas – Lithuania

There’s no doubt about this man making it to the NBA – in fact, he’ll be balling for the Raptors in just a couple of months.  The #5 pick in 2011′s NBA Draft, Valanciunas is an athletic 6’11″ 20-year-old with tons of experience.  Lithuania, a real contender for a medal in London, will be leaning heavily on their young starting center to lead them to the medal podium.

Sergey Karasev – Russia 

Karasev, a 6’7″ wing player, is projected to get picked in the second round of next year’s draft.  The 18-year-old lefty is a smart, experienced player who can score and also set up his teammates.  He played sporadic minutes for Russia in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament earlier this year, so it’s hard to predict how much we’ll see of him in London.

 

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