|12 September 2003|
By Jeff Taylor, PA International
Everyone is talking about Pau Gasol, a basketball conquistador leading Spain to new heights at the European Championships.
Playing in the NBA, albeit for the woeful Memphis Grizzlies, has made him a hero in his own country and all over Europe.
His performances in Sweden at the Eurobasket this summer suggest his fame is going to increase around the world as he hones his craft.
In Spain’s 78-64 win over Israel on Thursday, he had 25 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots to lead his country into the semi-finals against Italy.
“Gasol is a great player,” Israel coach Muli Katzurin said. “He made the difference.”
Gasol has scored at least 20 points in every game although Israel came as close to anyone to keeping the shackles on the versatile seven-footer. But in five furious minutes of the fourth quarter Gasol tore them apart.
||Gasol made the difference
The game was still in the balance, with Spain leading 61-57, when Gasol erupted for 14 successive points - six of them on thunderous slam dunks.
Before that offensive burst, Katzurin felt his players had executed the game-plan against Gasol to perfection.
“We did a good job on Gasol,” Katzurin said.
“Our plan was to confuse him, not letting him get any rhythm in his game. Sometimes we double teamed him, sometimes we were really physical and sometimes we left him some room.”
Gasol’s team-mates are riding the coat tails of a player who is already, arguably, the greatest Spaniard to ever play the game.
He is a popular figure because despite his growing fame, Gasol remains humble.
The sublimely gifted product from the ranks of basketball giants Barcelona is an expert at brushing aside compliments and deflecting praise to team-mates.
And Gasol is genuine, which gives his supporting cast more confidence in their own abilities.
“It is clear that having a player like Gasol in the team gives you something extra that other sides don’t have but Pau can’t go anywhere on his own,” said forward Jorge Garbajosa, who had 13 points against Israel.
“The team has been good for him. We need him but he needs us.”