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With every pass zipped across for 3-pointers, lob passes for alley-oop dunks, no-look behind-the-back passes to complete jumpers to his teammates on the perimeter, the two-year wait for Ricky Rubio in Minnesota has been well worth the wait.
So far in 12 games, Rubio has definitely quieted all of the criticism of his offensive game and has been active on the defensive end of the court especially after coming off what he called a "bad year" in the ACB, Spain's top basketball league.
He averaged just 5.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 34 regular season games. In eight playoff games, he put up averages of 2.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. For some reason, he says, he was missing some confidence in his game.
But the Spaniard has been the total opposite scoring 11 points per game while ranking eighth in the NBA and tops among all rookies with 8.3 assists. He averaged two steals and 4.1 boards.
"In reality last year I had a bad year but I learned a lot. Above all I learned a lot about the mentality and I grew as a person," the 21-year-old told Fox News Latino over the phone after practice Thursday afternoon, reminiscing of his year with FC Barcelona.
Rubio played a key role with the Spanish national team this summer, winning the gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Eurobasket tournament, helping them qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London but said "having a break this summer helped me recuperate some of that freshness."
Spending time in the States after playing for the Spanish team allowed him to reflect and work out more than ever in his deficiencies.
Rubio has looked anything but a rookie, being himself on the court doing what he does best - getting the ball to guys fellow former lottery picks Kevin Love and Derrick Williams, another rookie on this young 3-7 Timberwolves squad as they've ran up and down the floor averaging 95.4 points, good for 11th in the league.
Playing in coach Rick Adelman's system, that's favorable for point guards, has definitely benefited Rubio who praised the coach for not being on top of the players like other coaches he's had in the past and letting him develop his game.
Rubio has just gone out and played this season, given it his all, and leaving it all out on the court, being a constant figure during the fourth quarter, and earning more minutes than any other player in the league.
"Like I've said before, the confidence that he's given me is very important and I truly I feel very comfortable out there," said Rubio who also stresses the fact that he needs to be in all the plays mentally in order not to lose playing time.
"I'm pleased with the confidence that he's instilled in me but you have to demonstrate out on the court and mentally be strong because if your mentally weak every second out on the court, the opposing offense and defense will take advantage of you out on the court.”
Rubio's arrival to the NBA has been a hit with his fans back in Spain and in Minnesota. According to the first tallies released by the league yesterday, Rubio's 133,520 rank him third in voting for starting guard at the All-Star game behind Kobe Bryant (650,613) of the Los Angeles Lakers and Chris Paul (540,173) of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Not too shabby of a company to be with especially for a player that admitted that he still has ways to go.
"There are many areas where I have to improve. I have to improve a lot of things. Being that I'm young, I have a lot of time to get better," he said.
Rubio's maturity on and off the court should not be taken by many as a surprise. He started playing professionally at the age of 14. Rubio was on the floor against grown men, debuting on October 15, 2005 with DVK Joventut Badalona of the ACB while most boys his age here in the United States were playing at the AAU level or in their bedrooms playing video games or updating their Myspace pages.
The Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since losing in six games to the Lakers in the 2003 Western Conference finals. Rubio thinks this bevy of young players in Minnesota can go places.
Rubio says knows the fans, that have showered him with chants of “Ole! Ole! Ole!”, have been thirsty for a winner at the Target Center. His arrival is definitely a reason why Minnesota drew a midweek sellout this past Monday night against the Chicago Bulls, the team’s first non-opening night sellout since March 31, 2004.
"It's a young team that needs to learn a lot of things but also has a lot of quality and I think we can grow together," Rubio explained. "It's growing and I think we can make some big things happen but we have to believe in ourselves a little bit and also improve."
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc .
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