5 players who made a name for themselves at 2023 FIBA World Cup
With the 2023 FIBA World Cup all but wrapped up, it's worth noting that several players took their games to the next level and exceeded expectations. Here are a handful of standouts who made a name for themselves on the global stage.
5. Carlik Jones, South Sudan 🇸🇸
In a tournament full of elite-level NBA guards, it was South Sudan's Carlik Jones who led the World Cup in assists with over 10 dimes per contest. The knock on Jones' performance was that South Sudan failed to make the top 16, but his 29 assists in the two classification games that ended his event were eye-popping. He registered a total of 20.4 points per game, including a massive 35-point performance in South Sudan's opener.
Jones is an electric on-ball scorer with clear passing chops, evident after winning the G League's MVP award last season. However, Jones has played just 12 NBA games in two seasons after going undrafted out of Louisville, largely due to his small, 6-foot stature. It's clear that Jones is one of the better non-NBA guards in the world, and his performance as a naturalized player for a country slated to make its Olympic debut next summer should allow him to show off on the international stage once again.
4. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jordan 🇯🇴
A naturalized player for Jordan, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looked eerily similar to Kobe Bryant during his 5-game World Cup stint. That was by design, as the former NBA forward transformed his game from being a jagged versatile defender to a fluid perimeter scorer with intricate footwork comparable to that of the the late legend. He also dropped weight, cut his hair, and wore Kobe's famous No. 24 and his signature armband all as a tribute, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
Hollis-Jefferson got close to averaging Kobe’s jersey number in points, leading Jordan in scoring with 23.6 per game. His best performance came versus New Zealand, dropping 39 points - including seven in the final seven seconds to send the contest into overtime. Unfortunately, his heroics weren't enough to help Jordan win a game, but it might get him some looks from NBA teams before training camps start. The 28-year-old last played for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2021.
3. Tremont Waters, Puerto Rico 🇵🇷
Waters joined Jones as the only two players to rank in the top 10 for both points and assists per game, but Waters did so on a team that not only made the second round but threatened to advance with an upset victory over Karl-Anthony Towns and the Dominican Republic. That game was the former LSU guard's marquee performance, as he scored 37 points to go along with 11 assists, seven rebounds, and four assists.
After playing parts of three seasons in the NBA as a 2019 second-rounder, Waters headed to France last season to play alongside eventual No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama, but will now return stateside in the G League with the Raptors 905. Given his success in this summer's global competition, he may work his way up to a big club once again.
2. Bruno Caboclo, Brazil 🇧🇷
Bruno Caboclo is one of the more remembered draft busts of recent seasons - he was infamously dubbed "two years away from being two years away" moments after he was selected by the Toronto Raptors back in 2014. Though Caboclo only played in 105 games across seven NBA campaigns, his play in Europe and his performance at the World Cup could signify another shot soon.
Caboclo was a defensive anchor and a consistent offensive weapon for an overachieving Brazil squad that pulled off one of the tournament's biggest upsets by beating Canada in the second round. The big man had 19 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks in one of the two multiple-block double-double stat lines he registered during the event. With a decent shooting touch and that always-present length, Caboclo proved he's grown his game since that 2014 comment.
1. Dennis Schroder, Germany 🇩🇪
Spearheading Germany to its first-ever World Cup crown, Dennis Schroder elevated his game as one of the best performers on the international stage. Die Mannschaft navigated a tough group of Japan, Australia, and Finland, and went on to defeat the heavily favored United States. The veteran guard subsequently tallied 28 points against Serbia in the gold-medal game to cap Germany's undefeated run.
Despite a dismal nine points for a 4-of-26 shooting performance against Latvia in the quarterfinals, Schroder has scored at least 14 points in the previous five contests. The 29-year-old demonstrated a knack for leading the German offense as a scorer and facilitator - something his new NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, could desperately use following Fred VanVleet's departure.
Honorable mentions: Joshua Hawkinson (JPN), Willy Hernangomez (SPN), Nikola Milutinov (SRB), Arturs Zagars (LAT), Austin Reaves (USA), Andreas Obst (GER)
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