MADRID – Serge Ibaka believes Spain's Olympic basketball team has the talent to match the U.S. squad.
He's confident the 2008 silver medalists can compete with the 2012 gold medal favorites and world champions during the games.
"They are just like us, they also have players with a lot of talent," the Oklahoma City power forward said Saturday in his first full day of training with the Spanish team. "They are a different team to 2008, but their players are still very good."
The 22-year-old Ibaka will make his Olympic debut with Spain, which he helped guide to the European Championship title last summer soon after being nationalized. Ibaka, who is of Congolese origin, turned up at camp early to prepare for the London Olympics.
"There's no time to rest, we have to find our rhythm for the competition already for these friendly games we have, see how we feel," said Ibaka, who helped lead Oklahoma City to the NBA finals in June before losing to the Miami Heat in five games. Lebron James, of the Heat, and Kobe Bryant lead the American lineup, which includes Ibaka's Oklahoma City teammates Kevin Durant, Bryan Westbrook and James Marsden.
Spain has the bulk of its 2008 team — including Pau Gasol, brother Marc and Rudy Fernandez — returning, aside from injured point guard Ricky Rubio.
Spain has several exhibitions before opening against China on July 29 in London, including one against the U.S. in Barcelona on July 24. If the pair lives up to their billing as competition favorites, they won't meet again until the Aug. 12 final after being drawn in different groups.
"We should only worry about our own preparations because it's a long road to the final," Ibaka said. "The most important thing is to give our all to get there."