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Spanish point guard Rubio to join Timberwolves

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Highly-rated Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio will leave Regal Barcelona to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA next season.

"I have finally decided to go to the NBA. I have a dream that now can become reality," Rubio told a news conference in Barcelona on Friday.

The 20-year-old Spain international was selected fifth in the draft by the Timberwolves in June 2009 but at the last minute decided to stay at home for two more seasons to be better prepared for the rigors of the NBA.

Regal Barcelona confirmed in a statement on their website Rubio was moving to the Timberwolves.

"It's a bit scary because I have never left Barcelona before but I am very keen to take on the challenge," Rubio said.

Rubio is the latest Spaniard to make the transition to the NBA, following brothers Pau and Marc Gasol, who play for the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies respectively.

He has been compared in appearance and playing style to American former NBA player Pete Maravich, a five-time All-Star, known as "Pistol Pete" and who died in 1988 aged 40.

Rubio's youthful good looks and floppy fringe make him a valuable marketing commodity and his sponsors include sporting goods maker Nike and restaurant chain McDonalds.

(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Patrick Johnston)