Sun Looks to Shine in Olympics

Scola and Argentina won gold in 2004.
(NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: July 24, 2012

Before making a name for himself in the NBA, the world of basketball was already intimately acquainted with Suns power forward Luis Scola.

Besides tearing up the second-best professional basketball league in the world, the ACB league in Spain, Scola earned his stripes representing his country of Argentina in international competitions. While many players help lead their respective schools to collegiate titles before coming to the NBA, Scola was leading his country to medals.

“He’s been a really good player on that Argentine Olympic team,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “If you look at the guys that they’ve surrounded him with there, the fact that he’s been the guy that’s kind of stood out on that team tells me a lot.”

Back in 2004, Argentina shocked the world by winning the first Olympic gold medal in men's basketball since NBA players started participating in the competition. Scola, joined by teammates Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino, Fabricio Oberto and Andres Nocioni, knocked off a U.S. team that featured a young LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and a veteran Tim Duncan en route to the gold in Greece.

In addition, on three separate occasions, Scola was named the MVP of the FIBA Americas Championship. And in 2008, Argentina defended its medal by bringing home the bronze from Beijing.

Now, in his third Olympics, Scola is hoping Argentina can medal again.

“We were blessed with winning the gold and the bronze four years later,” the new Suns power forward said. “If we hadn’t won, it wouldn’t really matter.

“I enjoy being a part of the national team, it’s a great honor for me to represent my country and it’s also a great honor and experience to play in the Olympics. A lot of people are thrilled to have the chance to go watch the Olympics as a tourist, and I have my chance to play my third one as an athlete, be there and compete and also be successful.”

The Argentine team being sent to London consists of essentially the same cast of characters that took home the gold in 2004, minus Oberto. However, despite only falling 86-80 to the U.S. in an exhibition game in Spain on July 22, Argentina has been flying under the radar.

Scola believes that the U.S. and Spain are considered the favorites to medal, with a group of four or five teams battling for that final medal.

“The U.S. is one step above Spain,” the 6-9 forward said. “But after Spain there are a group of four to five teams that are as good and any of those could fight for a medal. There is always somebody that you don’t believe that’s going to be in that group and ended up being there, and there’s always somebody that you thought would be in that group that ended up not playing that well and is out of that group.”

Since the end of the NBA season, Scola has been preparing for the Olympics in several different countries. Argentina’s national team departed from South America to play in some exhibition games in Spain before heading to London for the Olympics.

However, in exhibition play against Brazil, Scola tweaked his right knee, causing him to miss a few days of practice. But the gold medalist has since resumed normal practice, experiencing no pain or swelling.

Showing no signs of injury, Scola totaled 14 points and six rebounds against the U.S. on July 22, while Ginobili led the Argentines with 23 points. Argentina’s first game in the Olympics is against Lithuania on July 29.

It’s slated as the final contest of the night.

“I think we have a good chance (in the Olympics),” Scola said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we’re looking better and we have some talent and a lot of experience. I think it’s going to be a good tournament for us.”

Currently, FIBA has Argentina ranked third in the world behind the U.S. and Spain.

“I think we are in that group of four or five teams that are going to be fighting for a medal, but those teams are one step or two steps behind the US and Spain right now,” Scola said. “But that’s for right now. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the games.”

But on July 29, the basketball world will once again see if Scola and Argentina have one more magical run in them.

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