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Lucas Nogueira (BRA) - Estudiantes (Liga Endesa) Photo:
BRA/ESP - Nogueira a star on the rise

MADRID (FIBA Americas Championship/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - The basketball fans of the Spanish Liga Endesa have grown accustomed to seeing something spectacular this season.

They've gotten used to seeing highlights of Brazil's Lucas Nogueira, and his rim-rattling dunks for Asefa Estudiantes.

The slams occur after Nogueira's long arms rise high above the others and snatch the ball out of the air before he dunks with ferocity.

Just 20 years of age, the 2.13m Nogueira has made a major splash and there's no telling how far his star will rise.

Only this week, Nogueira was named among five finalists for the Liga Endesa's prestigious Revelation of the Year award.

Spaniards Sergio Rodriguez (2004-05), Carlos Suarez (2005-06) and Ricky Rubio (2006-07), Bosnia and Herzegovina's Mirza Teletovic (2007-08), Americans Brad Oleson (2008-09), Richard Hendrix (2009-10) and Micah Downs (2011-12) and Mexico's Gustavo Ayon (2010-11) have previously claimed the honor.

"It is an honor and a privilege to be among the five revelation players in the second most important league (after the NBA) in the world: La Liga Endesa," Nogueira said.

The Dominican Republic's James Feldeine (Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada), Tunisia's Salah Mejri and Alberto Corbacho (both Blusens Monbus) and Lamont Hamilton (Uxue Bilbao Basket) are also in the running for the honor.

Nogueira isn't a raw talent, having been in the Estu system since 2009, yet he is a player who freely admits he has a lot of work to do to capitalize on his gifts of size and athleticism.

"I have good abilities and have long arms," he said to

"I run, but I need to play harder.

"I don't have the body. I need muscle.

"I need to keep going, work hard and play hard."

The national side

Nogueira is on the national team radar.

He has been for a while, since a stunning display at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men when he averaged 15.6 points and 10 rebounds per game for a Brazil side that finished second to the United States.

In the Final, he had 22 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and two steals but the USA, who were led by Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers, two players now in the NBA, scraped an 81-78 win.

Nogueira represented Brazil at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship and averaged 9.6 points and 8.8 rebounds.

Cracking the senior squad, at least in the short term, won't be easy because there is no shortage of centers.

"It is a dream for me to play for the national team," he said.

"It's very important to me.

"But it's obviously a difficult situation because Brazil has a lot of players like (Tiago) Splitter, Nene, (Rafael) Hettsheimer and (Vitor) Faverani.

"They've had good seasons this year. I know it's very difficult for me, but I need to keep working and playing hard.

"Maybe in four years, or maybe I have a chance right now.

"But I don't think about this.

"My focus right now is on working."

Has he been in contact with national team coach Ruben Magnano?

"Magnano hasn't spoken to me the last two summers but I'm relaxed and I'll wait for my opportunity," Nogueira said.

Another passion

To play for Estudiantes, a club chasing a Liga Endesa play-off spot, has allowed Nogueira to be in a perfection position to do something else.

"I played soccer for five years," he said.

"And it's great to live in Spain because I get to watch good football.

"I was at the Bernabeu Stadium at the last Real Madrid and Barcelona game."

Nogueira still loves football, yet it was only natural that he pursued a career in hoops.

"I was very tall, so that took me more to basketball," he said.

Basketball is always in the spotlight in Brazil because the country has top players in the NBA and Europe.

There is also the tradition.

Only recently, Brazil has cause to celebrate when the country's legendary player, five-time Olympian Oscar Schmidt, was directly elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I remember Oscar," Nogueira said, "but obviously I didn't see him play because I'm 20 years old."

Oscar was a big name in the United States because of what he accomplished in 1987 in Indianapolis.

He scored 46 points for Brazil in their gold medal triumph over the USA at that year's Pan American Games.

Oscar never played in the NBA, though.

Nogueira does want to make it in the North American league.

"The NBA is my dream, too," he said.

"If I have a chance to go to the NBA, I'll be happy but if it doesn't happen, it's okay.

"I can play in Europe and Brazil.

"I just love the game."


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