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Man of the Worlds High-flying NBA-bound guard Emanuel Ginobili had Argentina shooting for an upset of the U.S.

The typical NBA player from abroad prefers to live on the
perimeter, running off screens and knocking down threes. Emanuel
Ginobili of Argentina has bolder ideas. Sure, he can take and
make the trey a la Peja Stojakovic, but in a new foreign twist
he'll fake that shot and slash inside for a two-handed dunk over
any and all challengers. The 6'6" Manu (as his friends call him)
shoots like a European and jumps like an American. Not only is he
a leading candidate to become the NBA's Rookie of the Year this
season, but last week he also established his team as a serious
threat to the U.S. at the World Basketball Championships in

The best player in Europe for the last two seasons, Ginobili in
July signed a two-year, $2.9 million contract with the San
Antonio Spurs, who drafted him with the second-to-last pick in
1999. While veteran Steve Smith was the Spurs' starter at
shooting guard last season, the lefty Ginobili, 25, could quickly
form a global backcourt alongside 20-year-old point guard Tony
Parker of France. "I'm going to throw Manu into the fire," says
coach Gregg Popovich. "He's the kind of guy who wants the ball in
pressure situations, and if he doesn't get it, he looks over at
the coach like, Don't you know I'm here?"

To the grateful few paying attention--fewer than 400 people
watched Argentina's 100-81 demolition of Russia last Friday at
Conseco Fieldhouse--Ginobili showed touch and tenacity that will
readily translate to the NBA. He scored 21 points in 23 minutes
against the Russians, serially victimizing 7'1" center Alexei
Savrasenko, an NBA prospect. No sooner had Ginobili looped a
layup under the outstretched arms of Savrasenko than he was
swishing a baseline eight-footer over him, arcing it as if it
were a trick shot from behind the backboard. "He gives me a
stomachache," says Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, whose
team is in the same division as the Spurs. "He's got an edge to
him, a real presence."

Ginobili was named Euroleague MVP while leading Kinder to the
European championship in 2001; last season he averaged 15.6
points and 2.5 steals in 28.3 minutes per game. "He has also
become one of the best defenders in Europe," says Popovich.
Ginobili's rise comes at a dangerous time for the U.S. team,
which has been undefeated in international competition since it
began using NBA players. In wins over Germany and China last week
the Americans' transition defense was poor, and no challenger is
better on the fast break than the Argentines, who went 3-0 in the
first round while shooting 55.8% and averaging 106.3 points in
40-minute games. (Argentina and the U.S. were scheduled to meet
on Sept. 2 in the second round, with a possible rematch in the
knockout round.)

These championships, as well as a shot at an NBA career, are the
realization of a lifelong dream for Ginobili, who was born into a
basketball family in Bahia Blanca, the nation's hoops capital.
Manu's father was an amateur player, and his two older brothers
were pros. "I was playing well in Europe, and now I see I can do
all my things here in this tournament," said Ginobili. "So I
think my game is suitable for the NBA."

He'll find out soon. Rest assured there will be more than 400
people watching.

COLOR PHOTO: ADREES LATIF/REUTERS (GINOBILI) ALL MIXED UP Ginobili (in blue) blends a Yank's athleticism with a Euro's touch.


Futures Market
Some foreign stars choose not to join the NBA; some, like
Ginobili, arrive years after being drafted. Here are a few other
top talents at the world championships, including Mehmet Okur
(above, 13), whose rights are held by NBA teams.


Marko Jaric 6'7" G Yugoslavia
Drafted 30th by Clippers in 2000, will join Los Angeles this season

Juan Carlos Navarro 6'3" G Spain
Taken 40th by Wizards in June; currently playing for FC Barcelona, he may come to Washington in 2003-04

Mehmet Okur 6'11" F Turkey
Chosen 38th in 2001 by Pistons, will suit up for Detroit this season

Luis Scola 6'9" F Argentina
Drafted 56th by Spurs in 2002; playing for Tau Ceramica in Spain
and won't arrive in San Antonio before '03-04