Photo: EuroLeague

With 7:13 left in the fourth quarter, Baskonia trailing Real Madrid 66-57 and looking for defensive stops in order to get back into the game, former NBA champion and free-scoring Rodrique Beaubois guards a young and shy-looking 17-year-old kid with big man Johannes Voigtmann, a quick-footed near 7-footer ready to switch if a screen came.

Suddenly this kid, who drifts effortlessly into mid-court decides to take it to the hoop. Real Madrid’s Othello Hunter sets the screen and himself rolls to free himself in case the guard passes to him. Beaubois is beaten by this 17-year-old leaving Voigtmann on him.

Then in a move, that displays the typical cheekiness in teenagers, the kid showboats by dribbling through his legs and reminiscent of Tony Parker, rather hurriedly yet skilfully lays it in leaving the nearly 13,800 inside the Fernando Buesa Arena to shake their heads and marvel at such class.

This kid’s name: Luka Doncic.

And what’s amazing about all this is that it isn’t the first time that he has produced moments like this. Not even legally able to learn to drive in Spain, the young Slovenian has been a major factor in Real Madrid’s season as they top both the Liga Endesa and the EuroLeague and the scary part is, he is nowhere near his prime and right now, he is on his own for the EuroLeague’s end-of-season Rising Star award. No-one else touches him.

Doncic admitted following his side’s eventual 79-71 win over Baskonia that he learned the move from team-mate Sergio Llull, but individual highlights aside, the teenage prodigy is all about helping his team reach the Final Four and he is happy with where the team is heading right now.

“It was a very important victory to stay as leaders in the EuroLeague and we did a great job,” Doncic said. “With CSKA’s defeat the day before, it was even more important and we’re very happy to be on our own in first place.”

But while the more recognisable stars for Real Madrid come in the shape of Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Llull and Jaycee Carroll. Doncic, who was used last season in the EuroLeague merely for garbage minutes is breaking out quicker than many expected. The Slovenian averages 8.9 points a game with only Llull [17.4] and Gustavo Ayon [9.8] ahead of him along with an efficient 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest.

But his best statistic is that Doncic is ranked second on the team for index rating with +13.9. Only Llull ranks higher than the Ljubljana native which goes a long way from the kid who was warming benches last season.

Luka Doncic has had his breakthrough season with Real Madrid in this campaign. Is he truly in a league of his own for the Rising Star award? Photo: EuroLeague Basketball.

His play is often reminiscent of a teenage Ricky Rubio when he graced us with his ability while playing for Joventut Badalona in the 2007-2008 season.

Rubio’s true calling came when Badalona competed in the ULEB Cup in that season. Already recognised as a potential NBA prospect, the skinny, 17-year-old Spaniard found himself starting at point guard for the Catalan side and in his first game of the ULEB Cup campaign, he had five points, dished out six assists and got three steals in under 20 minutes of action but it when Joventut travelled to British Basketball League side Guildford Heat where Rubio showed his true wonder.

From the first possession, Rubio broke away after an intercepted pass by Heat’s Carlton Aaron and the youngster took contact from Guildford’s highly talented American Daniel Gilbert to get the bucket plus the foul, which silenced the 2,000+ crowd that packed the Guildford Spectrum and Rubio, even at an early stage oozed confidence.

Ricky Rubio caught the eye of the basketball world when Joventut Badalona won the ULEB Cup (now-EuroCup) in 2008.

At 17, he was successfully pulling off round-the-back passes, easily finding the open man for the uncontested jump shot and generally wowing the Surrey crowd with his genius. In just under 16 minutes, Rubio had nine points off 3/5 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and a steal.

The stats however do not tell the entire tale. Rubio played beyond his years and even though he didn’t have the best performance in the championship game against a Marc Gasol-led Akasvayu Girona (now dissolved), Joventut Badalona captured the ULEB Cup and it opened the door for Rubio, who was drafted with the fifth pick of the 2009 NBA Draft but instead decided to move on to Barcelona where he won the EuroLeague title in 2010.

Ricky Rubio #9 won the EuroLeague title with Barcelona in 2010. A year later, he went to the NBA after being drafted in 2009. Photo: EuroLeague Basketball.

It was the right move for Rubio, who instead of moving straight to the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves and living out a dream, decided to mature and improve his game. And In 2011, the Spanish international chose to leave the Catalan side and go Stateside.

The move was still met with some scepticism with many saying that Rubio was not ready, especially after questionable and nervy showings for Spain at Eurobasket 2011. However, Rubio had a breakout rookie season, guiding the Timberwolves to the brink of the Playoffs before an ACL tear cut his debut campaign and denied him a shot at the Olympics with Spain in 2012.

Minnesota, as a team lost their way, emphasising the true need for Rubio on their roster. Something that Doncic currently has with Real Madrid.

The 17-year-old Slovenian isn’t just a typical teenage baller with a priority for individual skill and flare. Doncic understands the true meaning of basketball, especially at the highest level: competing as a team.

The sky is the limit for Doncic, just like it was for Rubio.