A look at the rosters of the 32 teams who came to compete at the Basketball World Cup in China proves that the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague is the true meeting spot for talent from around the world. With 63 EuroLeague players in China, the competition can boast more participants than any other league. Moreover, those players are not also-rans who qualified, but have no shot at glory; 39 EuroLeague players have helped their teams to the second round!
When including the 23 players - of which 10 have reached the second stage - from 7DAYS EuroCup clubs, Euroleague Basketball has representatives on 20 of the national teams present in China. The dozen countries without any Euroleague Basketball representatives are all geographically far from Europe, such as Japan, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Iran, Puerto Rico, the Phillippines and of course, the United States. Russia is at the top of the list of teams with Euroleague Basketball players with nine men followed by Lithuania and Italy with eight each. Russia has players from CSKA Moscow, Khimki Moscow Region, Zenit St. Petersburg and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. The Lithuanian contingent is from Zalgiris Kaunas, Rytas Vilnius, Lokomotiv, Olympiacos Piraeus and ALBA Berlin, while Italy has players from AX Armani Exchange Milan, CSKA, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, Umana Reyer Venice and Germani Brescia Leonessa. Germany, Greece and Turkey feature seven players each; Spain has six and Argentina, France and Serbia five ... At the bottom of the list are Tunisia, Jordan, Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand with just one player each.
And the aforementioned numbers jump significantly when we count players who have played in the EuroLeague or EuroCup in the past.
Scola surpassed Gaze
There are several players here who played for several EuroLeague or EuroCup teams before moving overseas. For instance, the top scorer in the first phase with 24.0 points per game was Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who played for Partizan Belgrade and Fenerbahce before joining Sacramento in the NBA. Another one is veteran Luis Scola of Argentina, who is currently in his fifth World Cup. In the first game against Korea, Scola scored 15 points for a total of 588 since he made his debut in the competition in Indianapolis in 2002. With 23 against Nigeria and 13 against Russia, he's already at 624 and he surpassed Australia's Andrew Gaze (594) for second place on the list of top scorers in World Cup history. Ahead of him is only the untouchable Oscar Schmidt of Brazil who netted an unbelievable 843.
By the way, Scola told me once that he also "played" at the 1990 World Cup in his country, Argentina; he was among the crew who mopped up the sweat of the players under the baskets.
A 45-year-old record
We have had several blowouts of 50 or more points, but they are not the biggest winning margin in the history of the World Cup. That record belongs to the former USSR, which in 1974 defeated the Central African Republic 140-48 (72-23 at the break) in Puerto Rico. Ths individual record for points scored in a game belongs to Jae Hur of Korea, who blasted 54 points by himself against Egypt in Argentina during the 1990 games.
A near triple-double
Former EuroLeague champion Joe Ingles of Australia was almost the first player with a triple-double in the World Cup. Against Senegal, he scored 31 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and dished 9 assists, but there's still some time to see one in this World Cup! Ingles is tied for the lead in the assists rankings with 8.7 per game.
After overcoming some organization problems, mainly in the accreditation process for the media, we are awaiting the best part of the tournament. With 16 teams remaining, of which nine are European, we should be able to enjoy much closer games.
We have already witnessed some small surprises like the Dominican Republic beating Germany to advance, as did the Czech Republic against Turkey. The Turks not only missed out on the second round, but also, like Germany, will not get the chance to play for one of the two direct berths for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We have witnessed some drama, especially in the game between the USA and Turkey; we have seen some ejections, one of them for Coach Zvezdan Mitrovic of Montenegro; there were some crazy comebacks like Puerto Rico against Iran after having trailed by 18 at the break.
Although Chinese fans are more familiar with NBA players, they have been fortunate to learn that there is great basketball played outside the United States, especially in the Euroleague Basketball competitions.
FC Barcelona has four players in the tournament: Pau Ribas, Victor Claver and Pierre Oriola for Spain and Kevin Pangos for Canada. But if we take a look at the former Barcelona players the number grows. We have Anderson Varejao (Brazil), Tomas Satoransky (Czech Republic), Joe Ingles (Australia), Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey), Dino Radoncic and Marko Todorovic of Montenegro... Oh, and if we add Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio and Xavi Rabaseda we would have a hell of a team! Yes, with a coach included: Sasa Djordjevic.
In the Dominican Republic there are some players whose fathers were also basketball players, but the most interesting thing is that the father of brothers Juan Miguel and Gerardo Suero, Gerardo Suero Sr., came in fourth in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow in the 100-meter sprint!
Dagoberto Peña of the Dominican Republic was a baseball pitcher but, despite his father's being upset about it, he decided to switch sports and helped his country reach the second phase.
Predrag Danilovic, president of the Serbian federation, has three kids. The eldest, Olga, is an outstanding tennis player and the girlfriend of Bogdan Bogdanovic.
We have another World Cup with a Sabonis present. The great Lithuanian big man made his debut in Colombia 1982 with the USSR and now, his son Donatas plays for Lithuania. Before the Sabonises, the only other dynasty in the World Cup was formed by Lindsay and Andrew Gaze of Australia; the latter coached his son on the Australia national team.
Talking about family matters, in each of the eight first-round groups, there was a pair of brothers.