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Ricky Rubio: The Freddy Adu of Hoop?

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Ricky Rubio: The Freddy Adu of Hoop?
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Ricky Rubio saga—what is the proper incubation period for a teen phenom?—reminds me of another much-hyped youngster.

Remember Freddy Adu? We're bombarded with so much information and as a result own such ridiculously short attention spans. I don't blame you, therefore, if you forgot about the 20-year-old American (via Ghana) who at 14 was the first pick of the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.

He scored a goal in an MLS game that first season. I know it’s not the Premier League, but that’s quite the accomplishment for a 14-year-old playing against men. In four season he scored 13 goals in 98 MLS games.

Manchester United, from the Premier League, were supposedly interested.

But now, where is he? Seriously, how many of the 6.7 billion people inhabiting this planet possess a clue as to where the boy wonder is playing this season?

In 2007, he joined Benfica in Portugal before being loaned out to AC Monaco in France last year. For the 2009-10 season he has been loaned out again, this time to Belenenses of Portugal.

The debate intensifies as to whether the player dubbed "America's Pele" will ever be a star on the international stage. Please. Pele scored a hat trick in the World Cup when he was 17. Adu is in Portuguese obscurity.

By the time Pele was 21, he was a two-time World Cup winner. Next year Adu turns 21 and one wonders whether he’ll be a regular on the pitch for Team USA during World Cup 2010.

We know Adu will be near the Mediterranean Sea this season. Rubio will also enjoy the temperate Mediterranean Winter, hoping his next three years involve the evolution of his game and further physical development, rather than the limbo of Adu’s past two.

Rubio is best known for his highlight moments in Beijing last summer, but when you look at the per game averages—4.8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists during the Olympics, plus his Euroleague averages this spring of .8 points, 1.5 rebounds, 3 assists—you must ponder the possibility that we (so eager for the next Pistol Pete?) have been duped by the Rubio hype machine.

Maybe Brandon Jennings was right.

Rubio has three years in Barcelona to strengthen his case for NBA competence and ideally stardom.

Is this kid, who is most likely to make his NBA debut when the United States votes for its next President, destined to be remembered as potential unrealized, or perhaps potential misdiagnosed? Misidentified?

His trade value has plummeted, but it could easily soar higher than it was prior to the draft with a great showing at Barcelona, or the Timberwolves might look back and wished they’d taken Wilson Chandler and the eighth pick for the Rubio pick in June. It would have saved a lot of travel for Minnesota's man in command David Kahn.

In three years, Ricky could be arriving in America—mega millions waiting—ready to star in the NBA, or people could be asking, the same way they do about Adu, “where is that guy? Whatever happened to him?”


Listen on the radio Saturday and Sunday nights—Tune into Patrick Mauro’s Sports Overnight America Weekend from 10:06 p.m. to 1 a.m. PDT

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