It's not that common for a Spanish player to make his national team debut at the U18 level. It's even less common for a player with the talent of Alejandro Abrines Redondo to do so. It took Spanish scouts a while to find Abrines but they are thrilled to have him on board.
Abrines played at a small local club in Palma de Mallorca before finally being discovered by Spanish giants Unicaja, who added the forward to their youth ranks in 2010.
Abrines held his own in Spain's second flight LEB Gold as a 17-year-old - a fact that Spanish U18 national team boss Luis Guil witnessed first hand as coach of second division champions Murcia.
|Late bloomer Abrines Redondo has adjusted immediately to his national team's needs|
"He played very good in the second division, which I feel is the fifth best in all of Europe. He has a lot of talent. He does everything easy and it's fun for him," said Guil.
The coach had no hesitation inviting Abrines to the Spanish team despite the fact that six of his players had teamed to lead Spain to gold at the U16 European Championship two summers ago and then played last summer at the U17 FIBA World Championship but slumped to a 10th-placed finish of 12 teams
And the bright-eyed, big-smiled and easy-going Abrines has more than been welcomed into the Spain side.
"He's very intelligent. For him it's very easy to be in this team because he knows how to play within a team. He has been greatly integrated as a person and a player. And he plays perfect with us," said Spain playmaker and leader Jaime Fernandez.
Abrines, whose father Gabriel Abrines played in Real Madrid's youth system before playing in the ACB for Huesca Magia, Cáceres C.B., Somontano Huesca, C.B. Gran Canaria and Baloncesto Fuenlabrada in the late 1980s and 1990s, has been a huge boost to the Spain team. Abrines the son has come off the bench to play 24.3 minutes per game and average 13.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.7 blocks while shooting 54 percent from the field and 47 percent from long range (15 of 32) and hitting 82 percent of his free throws.
"He's amazing as a person and a player. He is just amazing to play with him. You can pass to him and he will shoot or dunk. It's so easy playing with him," said U16 gold medal winner Alejandro Suarez of Abrines.
Abrines has also learned a lot from the experience of his teammates.
"These players have experience to give to all of us other players. We have to learn from their experience and just play and have the motivation. I am very happy with this experience," said Abrines.
When asked about Abrines, his teammates came up with a world and European champion from the NBA for a comparison.
"He's like Rudy Fernandez. I don't know how good he can be but he is very good, he can dunk, can shoot, he's amazing," said Suarez of Abrines.
Jaime Fernandez also thought of his namesake upon being asked about how good Abrines can be.
"Woo, I ... he reminds me of Rudy Fernandez. He's great."
Abrines could do something that Rudy Fernandez never did even before his 18th birthday. Fernandez claimed only U16 bronze in 2001 during his Spanish youth national team career. Abrines could claim U18 gold on Sunday - one day before he turns 18.
Not bad for someone late to the national team party.