EuroCup Star Turn: Ricky Rubio

Jul 14, 2020 by Print
EuroCup Star Turn: Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio is well established as one of the top point guards in the game. The MVP of the 2019 Basketball World Cup MVP after leading Spain to the gold medal, Rubio is at the peak of his powers and still has plenty of time to add more hardware to his roll of honors. Even though he made his EuroLeague debut at the tender age of 16, Rubio confirmed his status as a superstar in the making by lifting the 2007-08 EuroCup trophy en route to become the dominant player he is today.

What came before

No other European player had as much anticipation or hype around him as Rubio before he made his EuroLeague debut. Rubio was not even 15 when he played his first game in the Spanish League. In 2006, he led Spain to a gold medal in the U16 European Championships in Jaen, Spain with 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists and 7 steals in the gold-medal game against Russia, including in a double-pump midcourt prayer to force overtime and eventually win the game, 110-106. Rubio had already helped Joventut win the FIBA Eurocup title in 2006 and made his EuroLeague debut in the 2006-07 campaign. Still 16 years old, Rubio led the EuroLeague in steals (3.2 spg.) while averaging 3.6 points and 2.8 assists in 16 games. He averaged 6.8 steals per 40 minutes, which remains a EuroLeague record for players who took part in at least 10 games in a season.

EuroCup experience

At age 17, Rubio was a key player for Joventut in the 2007-08 season. Joventut is to date the EuroCup champion with the best record (16-1) in competition history. Coach by Aito Garcia Reneses and led by Rudy Fernandez, Demond Mallet and Jerome Moiso, Rubio had plenty of freedom to showcase his talent at both ends of the floor. He made his EuroCup debut on November 6, 2007, helping Joventut beat ALBA Berlin with 5 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Joventut would finish the regular season with a 9-1 record and in its only loss, 96-94 on the road against Turk Telekom Ankara, Rubio played a monster game with 29 points, 10 assists, 4 steals and a PIR of 38. Despite averaging less than 21 minutes per game, Rubio finished the regular season with 7.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals in 9 games. His PIR per 40 minutes, 26.6, ranked 18th overall.

Joventut remained undefeated for the remainder of the 2007-08 EuroCup season, sweeping Swans Gmunden in the eighthfinals and Khimki Moscow Region in the quarterfinals. Rubio had another fantastic performance in the first leg of the two-game, total-points quarterfinals in Russia with 18 points, 6 assists and 4 steals for a PIR of 24 in a no-doubt-about-it 73-96 road win. Joventut advanced to the Final Eight and kept rolling. Rubio had 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals to lead Joventut past Pamesa Valencia 77-67 in the quarterfinals. Next came Galatasaray Cafe Crown Istanbul and Joventut won 90-83 behind 27 points from Fernandez. Rubio had 6 points, 5 assists and a PIR of 10. Once in the championship game against Akasvayu Girona, Joventut overcame an early 12-2 deficit to cruise to a comfortable win, 54-79. Rubio lifted the EuroCup trophy in his first season in the competition with averages of 7.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.4 steals and a PIR of 12.9.

What came after

Rubio never returned to the EuroCup, but played three more seasons in the EuroLeague, one with Joventut and two more with Regal FC Barcelona. It all clicked for Rubio in the 2009-10 campaign, his first with Barcelona, in which he helped the team win the EuroLeague. Rubio averaged 6.8 points, 4.1 assists and 1.4 steals in 22 Euroleague games; he tallied 9 points in the championship game against Olympiacos Piraeus. His final EuroLeague season to date had a bitter end, as Barcelona lost against Panathinaikos Athens in the 2011 playoffs despite having the home-court advantage and with the Final Four taking place in nearby Palau Sant Jordi. He helped Barcelona win the Spanish League in 2011 and lifted the Spanish Copa del Rey trophy three times - with Joventut in 2008 and Barcelona in 2010 and 2011, before moving to the NBA. There he has played for Minnesota, Utah and Phoenix and accumulated 6,269 points (11.3 ppg.), 4,324 assists (7.8 apg.) and 1,047 steals (1.9 spg.).

Rubio has been a pillar on the successful Spanish national team, for which he made his debut at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. At age 17, he started in the gold medal game, which Spain lost to USA 118-107. He got another Olympic medal with Spain - bronze in 2016. Rubio helped Spain with four EuroBasket medals - gold in 2009 and 2011 and bronze in 2013 and 2017 - and more recently led Spain to the 2019 World Cup with tournament MVP honors. Rubio is one of four players to win the EuroLeague, EuroCup, World Cup and EuroBasket titles together with Fernandez, Felipe Reyes and Dejan Tomasevic. And more great things could still be in store for one of the best European players of all time.