9th appearance (7 consecutive) Team videoWorld challenge for Spain
Spain have never won a FIBA World Championship medal and come to Japan with the ambition to rewrite their history. Superstar Pau Gasol leads a young, deep and very talented team - perhaps the best ever in National Team history, which combines ambition and braveness as they go for gold.
Spain will challenge for their first FIBA World Championship medal ever in Japan. That is the goal for perhaps the best roster ever in the history of the Spanish National Team, which will try to put an end to a historical curse. The team has only once made it to the semi-finals of a FIBA World Championship - in 1982 (ranked 4th) - and has failed to win a medal in every world level tournament since the 1984 Olympic Games, when Corbalan and company captured the silver medal.
However, Spain look ready this year. The gold medal is no longer a dream but a real target. With four straight qualifications to the EuroBasket semis and three medals, it's time to extend its success to the World Championships, overcoming over the quarter-finals cruise that has crushed all Spanish hopes in 1998 and 2002, as well as in the 2004 Olympic Games. “We cannot be afraid of being too ambitious. Spain have to go for the maximum, the gold”, said Pepu Hernández, NT rookie head coach. “Our players have to be brave and ambitious and try to win over anything else.”
Before any gold hopes, of course, Spain must first advance from Group B, where they meet arch-rivals Germany, who eliminated the Iberians in the 2002 FIBA World Championship quarter-finals as well as in the 2005 EuroBasket semi-finals. The other opponents will be New Zealand, Panama, Japan and Angola. After that, the elimination rounds would come and the Spanish National Team would need four straight wins in do-or-die games to fulfil its golden dreams.
"If all of us are fit for the championship, we will have a great team that can beat anybody”, explains superstar Pau Gasol, who dreams about winning a FIBA World Championship with Spain. The Memphis Grizzlies centre will join the National Team for the FIBA World Championship after resting last summer due to a tough NBA season and a foot injury.
Gasol is the biggest Spanish star, no doubt. He is one of the best players in the world, an NBA All Star, and also a factor in FIBA competitions. He has played at a very high level every time he has joined Spain in a major tournament. And he will likely do the same at Japan 2006.Gasol is coming off his best season ever and his height, athleticism and wide range of moves and skills make him a rare player. Few players in the world can match Gasol’s talent. But even fewer, if any, can stop him.
He is THE star, but luckily for Spain, he is not the only one. Besides Gasol, the Spanish side can lineup stars like Juan Carlos Navarro, Jorge Garbajosa or José Manuel Calderón, as well as other high level players such as Sergio Rodríguez, Carlos Jiménez, Rudy Fernández, Felipe Reyes or Fran Vázquez (unfortunately injured during the preparation). Is this the best Spanish National team ever? “This generation is extraordinary. But it is not only about stars, it is about a team”, says Hernández.
Juan Carlos Navarro, expected to start at “2”, will share the offensive leadership with Gasol. “La Bomba”, as he is nicknamed, scored 25.2ppg at EuroBasket 2005, only behind German Dirk Nowitzki. And Navarro's 2005-06 season has been even better, winning Spanish ACB League MVP and All- Euroleague Team honours. And he looks ready for a major contribution in Japan - and for success, too: “With Gasol we can go a step further and be one of the strongest teams in the tournament so, yes, I think we can go for the best,” Hernandez added.
Jorge Garbajosa will be another factor in the Spanish roster. Expected to start at power forward, the Unicaja big man shares equal skills and leadership. At 28, he is already one of the oldest players on the roster, combining experience and a lot of know-how. He is in his prime and the 2006 FIBA World Championship arrive at the right time for him. He will share a very versatile frontcourt with Pau Gasol, playing open and taking advantage of double teams on the Grizzlies player.
Point guard José Manuel Calderón and small forward Carlos Jiménez will likely complete the starting five for the Spanish National Team - a line-up very familiar with one another: They have been playing together since 2002 and starting since 2003. Calderón, explosive and highly talented, joins the National Team after his first NBA season. On the other side, Jiménez is a veteran on this young team; at 30. He will try to help the National Team with his experience, outstanding rebounding, defensive work and team spirit. He will also join Coach Hernández, who coached him for more than a decade.
Five stars, five names to remember, but that’s not all. The Spanish National Team has a deep bench as well, with a variety of players. At the point guard spot, Hernández could have looked for the former NBA playmaker, Raùl López, fit again after serious knee injuries. Instead, on a list published at the end of June, the coach preferred to offer to the young prodigy, Sergio Rodríguez,his first experience at the highest World level. At the perimeter, the coach can find shooting guard Rudy Fernández, still 21 but already a star and FIBA EuroCup Final Four MVP. Fran Vázquez and Felipe Reyes should have shared responsibilities and hopes in the frontcourt, backing up Gasol and Garbajosa, who decided to join the Toronto Raptors next season. But Vázquez, still 23, got injured during the preparation.. Too bad for a young prospect who can already play a key role, like he did in the 2005 EuroBasket. On the other hand, Reyes is a solid rebounder and a blue-collar player. To replace Vásquez, Pepù Hernandez still had to chose, at Mid-July, in between Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca, Jordi Trias and Marc Gasol, Pau's little brother. But enven without Vásquez, Spain will remain one of the favourites for 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan.