While the main criticism of the new international windows has been the lack of recognised star talent, Spain coach Sergio Scariolo sees it in a different light.
The Spaniards have advanced to the second stage of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers after a run of four wins from as many games, with those victories coming against Eurobasket champions Slovenia, Belarus and a pair of wins over Montenegro.
But what has been most impressive is that without the services of proven national team stars such as Pau and Marc Gasol, Sergio Rodriguez, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez, Scariolo has had no choice but to be reliant on relative unknowns to the international circuit.
But led by Quino Colom, Javier Beiran and Jaime Fernandez, it’s business as usual for the second-ranked side in the world as Scariolo has had arguably the strongest domestic league outside of the NBA and EuroLeague at his disposal with many Liga Endesa stars on the roster.
“I’m very happy that we broadened the range of players who participate in this mission, which is to bring Spain to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019,” Scariolo said to FIBA. “This is extremely good for the whole of Spanish basketball.”
What has also been positive for Spain is that the attendance figures at their home games are indicative of how big the appetite is to watch the national team.
A strong crowd of 7,500 saw Spain beat European champions Slovenia in late November in Burgos and then 8,573 cheered as Scariolo’s side beat Montenegro on Monday in Zaragoza.
“We are following the tough road of many other big teams throughout this qualification,” Scariolo said. “I feel that also, Belarus winning against Slovenia increases the value of our efforts three days ago against them.
“Overall I’m really satisfied with the efforts of my players. We had more than a few minutes of great basketball (against Montenegro) and then when we struggled a little bit, the attitude was there, the fight was there, the defensive effort was there.
“We hung in there until we were able to step up again, make a few shots and open the gap which we managed to control until the end. So once again, congratulations to my players and thanks to the fans in Zaragoza. I hope they enjoyed it.”
The third window of the European qualifiers has Spain playing in Slovenia on June 28 and then hosting Belarus on July 1, with the EuroLeague season over, and some ending their NBA season as well, which could provide Scariolo with a selection headache.
“We must find a logical balance between the goal we have to qualify for the World Cup and this mission of pushing the (new) players,” Scariolo explained. “FEB [Spanish Basketball Federation] will give me directions, I will also have my opinion. We will see the eligibility framework of the following windows.”