Olympic Basketball Highlights 2012: Most Surprising Players of Tournament

Zachary Arthur@Zach_ArthurSLCCorrespondent IIAugust 9, 2012

Olympic Basketball Highlights 2012: Most Surprising Players of Tournament

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    One of the best parts of Olympic basketball is how the world gets to see what players rise to the challenge or fall from the pressure of international competition.

    Sure, people expect LeBron James to dominate or Maya Moore to make other women look silly, but what about the players that seem to come out of nowhere?

    These players have their countries on their back, so it's no surprise that a few players step up and compete in a way that you wouldn't expect. 

    Both the men's and women's games have provided us with some of these players, so let's take a look at six of the most surprise players of the tournament.

Nicolas Batum, France

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    The Portland Trail Blazers' Nicolas Batum was expected to come to London and be a big-time producer for the French national team, and in one way he has produced.

    He produced one of the ugliest basketball moments in recent memory.

    Batum is a surprise because he hasn't displayed this kind of aggression before and is known for his defensive skill set.

    The Blazers have to feel a little uneasy after overpaying to keep him in Portland this offseason. He had the opportunity to justify the $45 million offer sheet that the Blazers matched with a strong Olympic performance.

    All he did was was justify a future suspension.

Kim Smith, Canada

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    The Canadian women's national team has never reached the Olympics before London, and they surprised most people by reaching the quarterfinals, eventually losing to the American women 91-48.

    Kim Smith, the former University of Utah standout, surprised everyone with how effective she was for Canada, averaging 13.8 points per game.

    She is the only woman that has her jersey retired at the University of Utah, and it'll be interesting to see if this performance for Canada could resurrect her professional career.

Linas Kleiza, Lithuania

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    Linas Kleiza's six-year NBA career has consisted of being a role player and never having much of a chance at getting big minutes

    His Olympic performance probably doesn't warrant a job starting for anybody, but it definitely deserves some praise. 

    Sure, he had a disappointing performance to close out the Olympics with only four points against Russia in the quarterfinals, but up until that moment he had been playing great.

    His 25-point performance against the U.S. team was as strong as you'll see, and if someone told you that they saw it coming then you have permission to not speak to them again. Kleiza surprised a lot of people.

Erika Souza, Brazil

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    Erika Souza, a member of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, has been nothing short of dominant during the Olympics.

    She is leading the women's tournament in scoring with 16.2 points per game and has been Brazil's most consistent scorer, which is a bit of shocker considering she's known more for her rebounding.

    At 6'6", she is a force down low, and although the Brazilian women are already out of the Olympics, what she did during their play was still impressive.

Andrei Kirilenko, Russia

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    Former NBA All-Star Andrei Kirilenko looks like he found his youth back home in Russia, because he is playing out of his mind.

    He's currently fifth in scoring at 18.3 points per game and sixth in rebounding at 7.3 rebounds per game during his run at the London games.

    After playing overseas last year, Kirilenko will be returning to the NBA after signing on to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves this offseason. It'll be interesting to see if he can continue his surprising Olympic play.

    Russia will play Spain in the semifinals on Friday

Carmelo Anthony, USA

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    Is asking Carmelo Anthony to go 12-for-12 from three-point range too much? It would just be nice to see some production out of him.

    He went 10-for-12 from three against Nigeria in the most dominant Olympic U.S. basketball victory of all-time, so if you look at it maybe it isn't too much to ask.

    Anthony scored 37 points in the contest, breaking the previous Olympic record of 31 points for an American basketball player set by Stephon Marbury.

    That was probably as hard to read as it was to type, but yes, Marbury did hold the record.

    Putting Anthony on this list sounds ridiculous at first because he is one of the most naturally gifted scorers in the world. But he deserves to be on the list if you put everything into perspective:

    • His 37-point performance took place in just over 14 minutes of playing time.
    • He doesn't start for Team USA.
    • He is second on the team in scoring, only trailing Kevin Durant by half a point. Kind of interesting when Durant is playing seven more minutes a game.

    Carmelo Anthony has been Team USA's most dominant scorer thus far, and with Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant all starting, that is an incredible statement.