Roundup: Happy Birthday Ricky

Roundup: Happy Birthday Ricky
Oct 24, 2007, 02:08 am
When Rudy Fernández, currently the best player in the ACB League, fell injured on Thursday after burying 22 points against F.C.Barcelona, coach Reneses knew he could trust his youngest guards to keep Joventut at the top of the Spanish competition. The very same day Ricky Rubio turned 17 years old, he stepped up to fill that void, now showing proof of his ability to lead a team at the top international level. Meanwhile, escorting him, but still under the radar, Pau Ribas is steadily growing into a high level guard, and his weekend performance provide us the adequate timing to introduce a player that has been deserving some words here on DraftExpress for several months now. Both are the main features of this week.

Player of the Week: Ricky Rubio

It’s been a long time since we ran out of adjectives for Ricky Rubio, but he stubbornly continues to force us to keep talking about him. Although Rubio made his debut in the ACB League in the 2005/06 season, 2006/07 was his first professional season at full speed. It usually happens that, after making a first great impression, and certainly Rubio’s couldn’t have been better, it’s easy to get caught in the “sophomore slump”. The rivals know you better, the expectations and pressure are higher, and it’s hard to keep the same level of motivation. Ricky is a different breed of player, though, and he proves it every single time. Not only is there no trace of a sophomore slump, but he’s off to a superb season start.

On Sunday, the same day he turned 17 years old, he led a Rudy-less DKV Joventut to a very comfortable road victory against ViveMenorca. He only needed 18 minutes to produce 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. We were talking last week about his increased role on the team (he’s actually averaging 13.5 points, 2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3 steals, again leading the ACB League in this department, in 21 minutes per game), but this weekend he was even able to take an extra step ahead to make up for Rudy’s absence. As we had repeatedly stated, his degree of maturity is just scary. He always seems to know what his team needs out of him, and he’s able to provide it. The kid is ready to compete.


The major area where Ricky has gained importance on Joventut is his offensive commitment, either playing aggressively off the dribble or cashing in off his improved perimeter stroke. Rubio is now taking more responsibilities creating game on the offensive end, for him and his teammates. Whenever he used to defer to his teammates last season, almost always looking for the pass, this season he’s attacking his rivals more often, trying to split defenses in order to create easy baskets for himself, or, if there’s a defensive rotation, for his teammates. The guy is an amazing slasher, particularly thanks to his crazy right-handed dribbles and his superb footwork, while he has terrific court awareness to find his teammates off the drive.

Regarding his perimeter stroke, he’s knocking half of his three-point attempts, and you can bet it doesn’t look like a fluke. It just goes in line with what he showed during the summer, and in preseason. The fluidity and quickness on his release have noticeably improved, and he shows a nice ability to launch the shot as he receives a pass without having to lower the ball in order to prepare for the shot. His confidence is high as always; even last season he was rarely scared to take a shot ever since been given the green light to try from the perimeter, despite showing poor accuracy.

We can’t forget the scenario where he’s putting a show: his team DKV Joventut leads the strongest European domestic league, the ACB. By the way, the league’s official web page has published an excellent compilation of his plays so far this season. Be sure to take a look.

Taking a Long Look at… Pau Ribas

Quietly growing in Joventut during the last campaigns under the shadow of Ricky Rubio, but making constant strides for many years now, Pau Ribas is evolving into a very nice point guard, to the extent that Joventut decided this season to let Elmer Bennett go, loan Marcelinho Huertas, and sign only Demond Mallet (who is more of an off-guard anyway) to replace them in the backcourt. Therefore, Ribas finds himself as the second true playmaker on the team, with an awesome opportunity to play heavy minutes for coach Reneses, who loves deep rosters and intensively rotating his players.

A silver medalist this summer at the U-20 European Championship, teaming up with Sergio Llull at the point guard position, Ribas doesn’t enjoy the athletic exuberance that his countryman is showing lately, so he might go more unnoticed on the court. But he’s actually a rather complete player, displaying excellent size, solid athleticism, and the ability to both score and run his team’s offense. He’s indeed a player you can put on an ACB court and expect to do his job, which is quite a positive statement considering the level of competition we’re talking about. That’s what happened this past weekend, with Rudy Fernández out of the team, he was in charge of filling some of that open playing time in the backcourt, and came up with an extremely solid game, going for 10 points (4/5 from the field), 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals with only 1 turnover in about 24 minutes of playing time.


Standing 6-4, with a nice wingspan and being fairly strong, Ribas is right where he needs to be in the physical department in order to compete at the European level. A solid ball-handler, he’s not an explosive-type of guard to light his opponents up off the dribble, but a sober playmaker who can attack his match-ups going both ways while displaying nice directional changes. He often uses screens, while nicely combining his shooting stroke and passing ability, usually showing notable decision making. He’s a very fluid shooter, creating separation off the dribble naturally, and with three-point range. And if not an extremely creative passer, he can find his teammates and play with his brain. He is quite a dangerous player in the pick-and-roll, where he can fire off-the-dribble if he’s granted space, or feed the rolling man if his shot is contested. He’s a player to work within the team flow, a smart guy who understands the game and takes advantage of favorable situations, also a solid defender, in general a willing player who displays the right attitude on the basketball court.

Ribas is not oozing with untapped potential, but he’s a guard you can comfortably predict a long and successful career at a high European level if nothing strange happens. Beyond that, let’s not put limits on his potential achievements. He has a solid physical presence, he’s skilled, he’s smart, he seems a hard worker, and experience has often showed us that with talent, a clairvoyant mind and the right desire, you can get really far, even with only decent athletic tools.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Jure Lalic has geared up after a slow start, and has now scored in double digits in the last four games in the Adriatic League. Last week, he had 23 points and 10 rebounds in the victory against Split, while settling for 19 points and 6 rebounds in the loss against Partizan. Despite not being an athletically gifted player, a big and strong guy like him can always be interesting, and it’s about time for him to materialize his skill repertoire and physical superiority in an average league like the Adriatic.

Milenko Tepic’s showing so far this season can only be addressed as extremely consistent. He’s delivering in every single game, helping his team in every department, and producing with great regularity. He’s averaging 13.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.5 steals for league-leading Partizan in the Adriatic League. It’s very interesting to stress his perimeter accuracy, as he’s netting 44.4% of his three-point shots. His long-range shooting had given Tepic many headaches in the past, limiting his ability to provide consistent scoring production for his team. If he finally manages to forget those struggles, his stock will dramatically improve, as he’s a very complete guy in virtually every other department of the game.

Nicolas Batum seems to have awaken after a mediocre start of the season. He blossomed in the last two games, going for 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the loss against Gravelines, and 19 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists in the victory against Pau Orthez. Other than his oft-questioned character, there’s no reason why Batum shouldn’t be delivering game after game this season. He has all the tools to become a great factor in Le Mans.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

Rudy Mbemba hasn’t been able to crack into Deutsche Bank Skyliners’ rotation. The tiny Swedish point guard doesn’t seem to answer to what quality European teams look for in a playmaker. Actually, the German squad tried to send him to the fourth division [thanks: BallinEurope], but Rudy just refused to go there. Instead, he’s back to Sweden and signed a five-week contract with Solna, with an option for the rest of the season. Let’s clarify from the start that the Swedish league is really a weak one in the European scene, but he has somehow made an impact in his new team, helping them to achieve two victories, while averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Still, we would like to see Mbemba delivering in a more competitive environment.

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