While the FIBA World Cup provides a great opportunity to see some of the finest NBA players in a different environment, the tournament may also be the best place to see some future stars of the NBA. There are a number of college players making their name in the big event of the summer, and there are plenty of basketball players from around the world who have ambitions of playing in the NBA.
One such player is Petteri Koponen, the point guard of Finland who has stated that he hopes to be playing in the NBA by 2015/16. The player has one more year on his contract in Russia and he has told American media at the World Cup that he has a dream to make it to the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks acquired the rights for the player in 2011 and he has talked to the team every summer to see what his options. The timing of the conclusion of his contract with BC Khimki, his Russian team, may be exactly the situation he needs to propel himself into the big time. A good showing at the World Cup will do his chances no harm at all, and so far, Koponen has performed admirably on the big stage.
The player is highly regarded in Europe
The player, who stands at 6 foot 5, has played professional basketball in Italy and Russia. At the age of 26, he has the size to make it in America and it is believed that the player is now mentally ready to get involved with the NBA. While there is still a chance that the Mavericks will bring the player in for themselves, the fact that they have 4 point guards in their line- up already may count against this. If this is what unfolds, don’t be surprised to see the Mavericks using the player’s NBA rights as a trade asset. Even though Finland lost to USA in their opening game of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Koponen was impressive in the team’s second game, and first win, the 81-76 triumph over Ukraine. Koponen delivered 9 assists and 14 points in the game, where he was competing against Pooh Jeter. This is the sort of performance that ensured people were sitting up and paying attention to what Koponen was delivering.
The fact that the coach of Team USA, Mike Kryzewski spoke highly of the player, naming him as one of the best point guards in the tournament will have been noted by many within the American game. The fact that the USA coach said that the player was key to the way that Finland play will have been a major headline and this will only provide the Finnish player with even more confidence in his own ability. There were 9,000 Finnish fans cheering on their team against America in Spain, and it is clear that Petteri is a massive favourite of the fans.
The Finnish fans were superb in Bilbao
While there is a need for the local fans to get out and support an event like this, it is often the travelling fan base that ensures there is colour and energy about these games. USA players like Klay Thompson and Steph Curry were quick to enthuse about the backing that the Finnish team received from their players. In tight games, this can be the sort of thing that makes a difference and it may well be that Finland have a chance of making good progress in the tournament if their fans stick with them.
Finland may have made it to the FIBA World Cup thanks to a wildcard, but they have their sights set on arriving in Barcelona for the knockout round and not too many people would bet against them.