Don't expect Rudy Fernandez to quit Spanish national team

Donatas Urbonas
Senior Staff Writer
2022-09-16 11:30

Coach Sergio Scariolo would be surprised if 37-year-old Rudy Fernandez quits the Spanish national team after the EuroBasket 2022.

Credit: FIBA

Watching Rudy Fernandez play, sometimes it feels like he's playing his last game with the Spanish national team jersey.

You just see the guy who dives for every possible (and sometimes impossible) ball that is going out of bounds.

He does Dennis Rodman's tricks and crashes into the first rows of the Mercedes-Benz Arena. No ball could go past Rudy. Once, he even deflected the ball that Finland's assistant coach tried to pass to the referee.

He might be questionable for every game due to pain in every part of his body, which went through 267 NBA, 305 EuroLeague, 518 Spanish league appearances, and 131 caps with the national team. But as soon as he steps onto the floor, he goes all in for the team's good.

Rudy had a serious case for being the most hated Spanish NT player by opposing team fans. But even the ones who were cursing him before now can't ignore his passion that defines the character of the champion.

"He's amazing. What can I tell you? He's amazing," Sergio Scariolo can't stop admiring his captain.

"He has a bad back, bad neck, bad knee, bad everything, but he is not scared. He goes on the floor and gets into early third-quarter steals like an 18-year-old kid. He's leading by example in the hallway of the world. What can I tell you? He is a great leader for his teammates, especially in tough moments," Scariolo concluded.

Rudy Fernandez might be only the fifth-best scorer on his team (8.0 PPG). But he's the one who everybody expects to make tough shots when the game is on the line.

Real Madrid veteran made two clutch threes after Usman Garuba's offensive rebounds when Spain managed to erase an 11-point deficit and win the game in overtime against Lithuania.

He did the same against the dangerous Finland team with Lauri Markkanen, helping Spain to overcome the biggest deficit in this EuroBasket (-15) and take his country to the semifinal hitting two 9-meter 3-pointers.

Since 1999, Spain has never missed the EuroBasket semifinals.

With nine EuroBasket debutants and an injury-plagued roster, it could have been the end of this remarkable run.

But when everybody thought that the glorious era was over, a 37-year-old legend showed that until he was there, he would continue the legacy of the most dominant national team in this century.

"Rudy has been an unbelievable leader during the whole time together since day one. Leading by example, first. Working hard in practice and helping the young team with advice," the Spanish NT head coach Sergio Scariolo said.

"Sometimes he is tough on them when it takes to," Scariolo admitted. "He is helping Lorenzo to get in different ways. Helping me a lot with his feelings. Honestly, I was not even expecting that."

"He was always one of the co-leaders but a little bit in the shadows of Marc, Pau, or Ricky. And now he was the only one left. He felt the need, and it took with pride to be the link between that team which is basically not existing anymore, and this new team we're trying to make grow.

Trying to get the legacy of the previous one but needing someone who could physically and practically do it with player codes and languages showing what it means to be part of this team," Scariolo added.

"To me, it's easy because I've always been part of this team forever. But he is the guy who can tell his teammates what it takes to wear this shirt which is very admired, even envied shirt in world basketball.

And it's not easy to wear it. Not because you need to be a special talent to wear it. But because you have to be the special man to be part of this team and really fit in this group. I can only thank him. He's a hell of a captain. Hell of a leader. Hats of 100%."

Scariolo admitted he probably overused Rudy in the do-or-die game vs. Lithuania.

He spent 29 minutes, the most in this competition so far, despite being questionable for the Round of 16 game due to pain in various parts of his body.

After a huge effort against Lithuania, Rudy spent the other day in the ice bath.

It shouldn't be the last national team competition for Rudy Fernandez. That's how the real champions act, playing every game as if it were their last one.

Even if it was his 16th summer with a senior national team.

"I don't think he's going to quit after this. I would be surprised, honestly. He's playing his best championship ever. Why should he quit?" smiled when asked if such an effort from Rudy might be signalizing that he's giving his all because it's his last competition with the Spanish NT.

"If you want to play safe, you might say, 'Okay, I can't do any better.' But this is not Rudy. If he's healthy, I expect him to play," Scariolo said. "He's enjoying it. His role in this team is probably different than any other role he ever had in any other team. It's nice to enjoy it because he's trying a brand new experience."



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