By Cindy Garcia-Bennett, PA International
Spanish sensation Rudy Fernandez is firmly in national team boss Moncho Lopez's Olympic plans, the coach confirmed on Monday afternoon.
The forward, just 18 years old, underlined his immense potential with three dynamic performances for DKV Joventut in the Copa del Rey as they finished runners-up to Tau Ceramica.
Fernandez and Barcelona's Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol's younger brother, have been identified as stars of the future by Lopez but now the coach says he is convinced that Fernandez has a legitimate chance of taking part in the Athens Games.
Lopez, who guided Spain to a silver medal at last summer's European Championships, told PA International in a phone interview from Sevilla airport: "It is true that he (Fernandez) has not made his debut with the senior team, but there is a strong probability that he will be in Athens. At the moment, he is the best player at his position in Spain."
The Olympics is one of the grandest stages in international basketball.
Lopez says the pressure, though, will not be too great for Fernandez, who scored 15 points and had six rebounds in Sunday's 81-77 final defeat to Tau.
"I don't think so," Lopez said. "He's going to suffer the same pressure as any other player. His age isn't a disadvantage, but an advantage because it means that he will improve.
"You have to value Rudy's playing ability. The high level of basketball that he is playing is what matters, and not his age.
"The Olympic Games are not too big a venue for a player like Rudy."