PALMA DE MALLORCA (Olympics/NBA) - Spain's Rudy Fernandez went from exciting player to match-winner for his country this summer.
On Sunday, he'll travel to America to begin his career with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Fernandez, who played in his second Olympics at the Beijing Games with the Spanish and turned in heroic displays in several contests, including a narrow title-game defeat to the United States, is eager to go up against the best players in the world at club level, too.
"This is a unique experience that I wanted to live," Fernandez said.
"Whether it goes well or not, I will have at least had the chance to experience it. To return early would not be a failure. I am prepared for that challenge."
Of all the plays that Spanish basketball fans will remember from the Beijing Games, there is one they will never forget.
That was the sight of Fernandez streaking from several yards in front of midcourt and soaring in from the right before dunking over Team USA's Dwight Howard.
The play demonstrated just how fearless Fernandez has become.
Even Portland coach Nate McMillan, an assistant to head coach Mike Krzyzewski with Team USA, raved about Fernandez after the gold-medal game.
"The coach has a lot of confidence in me and wants me to be an important member in the team," Fernandez said.
"My aim is to play minutes."
Fernandez, whose mother will accompany him on his trip to America and live with him for the first two years, also knows there is one very important person who will not forget his spectacular dunk.
That person is Orlando Magic star Howard.
"I am convinced that one day, Howard will do the same to me," Fernandez said, smiling.
Fernandez averaged 13.1 points per game in Beijing, although in Spain's toughest clashes he was far more influential.
In an overtime win over China, the 6ft 5in Fernandez had 21 points and in the semi-final against Lithuania, he poured in 18.
In the gold-medal showdown with Team USA, Fernandez made five three-pointers and finished with 22 points.