Fernandez Honoured Before Spain Win

29.08.2007

EuroBasket fever hit Palma de Mallorca Tuesday night as Germany and Spain played their second friendly in less than a week and fans had a chance to pay tribute to young superstar Rudy Fernandez.

The 22-year-old was named the FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year for his efforts with club and country in 2006, culminating in a World Championship for Spain.

FIBA Europe Secretary General Nar Zanolin and the President of the Spanish Basketball Federation Jose Luis Saez were on hand to present Fernandez with the award, which earned him a standing ovation from the sellout crowd.

“This award is a real honor,” said Fernandez.

“It means that I am ahead of people like Andrea Bargnani and Ersan Ilyasova (second and third in the voting) and that’s something that really motivates me to get better and to continue to do the same things I’ve been doing until now.”

The 22-year-old credited National Team Coach Pepu Hernandez with his growth saying: “Pepu gave me a lot of self confidence (at the World Championships) in Japan and I was really satisfied with the work that I did there.”

Fernandez celebrated the newest addition to his trophy case with 12 points in a game where both teams struggled to find their rhythm on offense, though Spain had the better of the action, coming away with a 72-56 victory.

The DKV Joventut star did bring the capacity crowd to its feet four minutes from time when he caught a Jose Calderon alley-oop pass and threw down a reverse dunk worthy of the highlight reel.

The Spanish were in control most of the way with the partisan crowd providing plenty of motivation.

Despite a sub-par performance from Dirk Nowitzki the Germans managed to keep it close, trailing by just three at the half way mark.

Spain then went on a 15-3 run to start the second half and it was never in doubt from there.

Pau Gasol led all scorers with 14 points and six rebounds for the victorious side.

Nowitzki finished with just eight points in the loss, shooting 21 percent from the field.

"It was a complicated, difficult game because Germany are intelligent rivals and are using their heads while preparing for the EuroBasket," said Spain coach Pepu Hernandez.

"It's been a positive result. We have improved on defense, we have improved our rebounds and we have been able to run."

Spain, with the EuroBasket set to start in just five days, still do not know if power forward Jorge Garbajosa will play.

Garbajosa has been battling back from an operation at the end of March on his ankle and fibula.

There was a minute's silence before tip-off for Sevilla football star Antonio Puerta, who died on Tuesday - three days after suffering cardiac arrest in a Primera Liga game.

Spain's first EuroBasket game is against Portugal on September 3.


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