The 2013 NBA Draft may lack the budding superstars that sputtering franchises crave, but that doesn't mean this year's international crop need be overlooked. Youngsters like Dennis Schroeder, Sergey Karasev, Giannis Adetokunbo, and Rudy Gobert bring plenty of intrigue to the table, especially for those general managers seeking prospects to stash overseas.
Once upon a time, Ricky Rubio was in their shoes—adidas or otherwise. In 2009, the Minnesota Timberwolves made Rubio, then all of 18, the fifth pick in the draft. But rather than cross the Atlantic right away, Rubio opted to spend another two years developing his frame and his game in Spain's ACB League.
That delay appears to have paid off. Now, Rubio ranks as one of the brightest young stars not only at his own position, but also in the Association as a whole. His appeal, at the age of 22, is equal parts flashy passes, dazzling dribbles, and quick hands on the defensive end, with a hefting helping of charm to boot.
Ricky recently took a moment to talk to Bleacher Report at an adidas event in Hollywood. Here's what he had to say about his transition from Europe to the NBA.
BR: How would you describe the difference between playing in Europe and in the US?
RR: Well, there’s not a big difference. It’s basketball, at the end of the day. You just play five-on-five and try to score more points than the opponent. But the styles are different. Here, you run more forward. It’s more open. In Europe, it’s more five-on-five. It’s more controlled. You control more of the game over there.
BR: What’s your favorite part about the NBA?
RR: The NBA, that’s why I came here, the best players in the world play here. They play every night. You have a challenge every night playing against the best players in the world. That’s what takes you to another level and helps you to improve every night. That’s why I like the NBA. There’s a lot of games, too. Like I said, every game is a challenge.
BR: What’s it been like to play with a T-Wolves team that has so many guys from so many different places around the world?
RR: Playing with so many guys from different places, it helps to learn and to play different kinds of styles. Everyone is bringing what they know from where they’re coming from, and actually, that helps the team to understand more basketball because there’s different styles and you put it all together and you take the best one.
BR: What was it like for you making the transition from playing abroad in Spain to playing in the NBA?
RR: It was a huge transition, physically. Here, we play more physically. You have to be stronger. Actually, the level in Europe, it’s high. It was a difference, but it wasn’t a huge one.
BR: What was the most surprising thing about the transition?
RR: One of the surprising things was playing that many games, and every game was worth. I mean, you’re fighting to win the game and playing against the best players in the world. That helps you to improve, and actually, I loved that.
BR: What effect did those extra two years playing in Europe have on your development as a player? How did that affect your ability to blend into the NBA?
RR: That helped me, of course. I got two more years experience. I won the Euroleague, the ACB League, and actually that helped me to know how important it is to work hard doing what you propose and accomplish your objective.
BR: What advice would you give to a young international player who’s thinking about making the jump to the NBA but isn’t entirely sure just yet?
RR: I mean, he has to be sure, but actually he has to trust and believe in himself. If you think you can make it, try it. You have to try because it’s a dream come true. You play with the best in the world and, actually, this is the best league.
BR: How’s your knee holding up?
RR: The knee is pretty good. I almost forget about it. Actually, I’m happy how everything went after surgery and I felt pretty good.