Ricky Rubio became the all-time most hyped Spanish kid since dominating a televised U-14 tournament played early in 2004. The combination of natural talent and the Internets massive information power has been the recipe for this exposure. Here at DraftExpress.com we already told you about his performance at the Cadet (U-16) European Championships played this summer in León, where he excelled among the 1990-born age group.
Its common to hear nothing but raving comments about Rubio coming from the mouth of coaches or basketball experts in general. Theres quite a lot confidence that hell become a very good player in the future. But the process might be advancing a little quicker than some may have anticipated.
DKV Joventut has been shorthanded at the point guard position for some weeks now, ever since Marcelinho Huertas, the reserve playmaker, got injured. Its usual in Joventut (also in many other European teams) that the most promising kids of its youth squads make the preseason with the first team, giving them a chance to test competition against proven veterans. Coach Aíto García Reneses, well known for making room for young player, resorted to them once again in these circumstances.
This brings us back to the position that Joventut is developing him at, point guard. After a summer playing off-guard with the Cadet national team, the 6-3 Rubio, along with Pau Ribas (a much less talented kid, born in 1987, but still a nice prospect for the domestic league), was in charge of backing up veteran American Elmer Bennett in preparation games, although not all of them were pure friendly ones.
During the preseason DKV Joventut played in the Catalonian League, a competition with some tradition that teams take rather seriously. Ricky was there, having an excellent showing in the semifinal played a couple of weeks ago.
The rival was Akasvayu Girona. That name should ring a bell for many people; its the same wealthy team that stole Fran Vázquez from the Orlando Magic and brought former Utah Jazz PG Raül López back to Spain.
Rubio entered the game in the third quarter, with DKV Joventut trailing by 12 points, and left the court 5 minutes later, leaving his team only 3 points down in the score and on the right track to their eventual victory. In his time on the court, Rubio showed remarkable coolness and poise. Girona players repeatedly tried to put pressure defense on him, envisioning an easy victim to steal the ball from, but Ricard never panicked, even daring to attack his rivals a few times by slashing into the lane to force the foul or pass to an open teammate. His quickness and ball-handling skills are good enough even at this category. He didnt look bad on the defensive end either, where he can keep up athletically, although as expected, he suffers from a physical standpoint.
He was much more discrete in the finals against Winterthur FC Barcelona, being unable to take advantage in virtually any play, and struggling a bit more on defense.
Nevertheless, coach Reneses picked him over the more mature Ribas to start the ACB season in Granada. And just at the end of the first quarter, he decided to make some history by putting the kid on the floor. Rubio reportedly had a very nice performance in the five minutes he spent in the game, being aggressive on defense and fearless in general. His statistical contribution to his teams victory was 2 points, 1 assist, 2 steals and drawing 3 personal fouls from the opposition.
However, many times this kind of achievements dont mean much in the long run.
Rickys own two-year older brother, Marc, held the previous age record for DKV Joventut, after seeing some action in the ACB League last season. Hes a player that will need to work hard to enjoy a decent career in the Spanish League in the future, though.
Or we have Manuchar Markoishvili, who astonished the basketball world by playing 15 minutes with Benetton Treviso in the 2003 Euroleague final at the age of 16. Despite still being on the draft radar, he doesnt look like a top international prospect at all anymore, although he was much more physically mature for his age than Ricky looks now.
The previous holder of the record in the ACB League was a played named Ángel Rebolo, who had the opportunity to play in the 1990/91 season with Breogan at the age of 15. That was the first and last season he tasted this competition level. Also at the age of 15, Juan Pedro Cazorla made his debut in 1991 with Tau Vitoria. He played a grand total of 207 minutes in his ACB career.
Indeed, this is by far the most common type of outcome regarding kids showing up that early in the Spanish League, and it should serve Ricard as a warning sign. He must stay focused on his work, because theres a world of development and hard work waiting for him, and serious flaws to fix. For example, theres still no sign of him having any kind of shooting ability to speak of at this point.
Nevertheless, we hope that Ricard Rubios future in basketball will be a lot different than those of the two forgotten players mentioned above. But it perfectly shows the lack of significance that these milestones have when it comes to the future career of a player. Rubio is an excellent prospect, but not because he played a few minutes in the ACB League at the age of 14, but because of his wonderful talent and potential.