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Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006

Navarro another star for loaded Spanish


Special to The Japan Times

SAITAMA -- Pau Gasol is the star on the Spanish team, but he's not the only reason unbeaten Spain has golden aspirations at the FIBA World Championship.

Juan Carlos Navarro has been spectacular along with Gasol.

The 26-year-old shooting guard has scored 14.6 points per game through seven games, including Tuesday's 89-67 win over Lithuania in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Championship, second to Gasol's at 21.6 ppg.

Navarro's consistent but conspicuous game is giving the Spanish side a great complement to Gasol, who has become one of the best inside players in the world.

With Navarro outside and Gasol at inside, Spain may have the best one-two punch in the tournament.

In Tuesday's game, Navarro, nicknamed "La Bomba," got hot from the beginning, scoring 15 points and helping Spain build a big lead in the first half. Navarro accounted for 30 points of Spain's 47 points in the half.

"I think the game was much easier than we expected," Navarro, who finished the game with 22 points, said after the game.

With Tuesday's win, Spain advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1982, and Navarro's presence is certainly helping the team's roll and could help Spain grab the gold medal.

"Obviously, it's not an easy accomplishment," said Navarro, who added that he was confident of Spain's team chemistry.

"This is a true team," Navarro said of Spain, which has won 16 straight international games. "And everyone who comes out does a good job."

Navarro, who has a great shooting range as well as blazing quickness to penetrate inside, was drafted by the Washington Wizards in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft, but he never broke into the league.

Nonetheless, he blossomed into one of Europe's premier star guards, now playing for F.C. Barcelona in the Spanish League currently.

The 191-cm Navarro ranked second in the scoring department at 25.2 points per game in EuroBasket 2005, trailing only Germany's Dirk Nowitzki.



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