Coming into the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, Mexico was far from being considered one of the favorites to win it all. After all, they only made it into the tournament as a replacement for a banned-from-international-play Panama squad and only have one current NBA player on their roster. Before the championship began, there was very little reason to believe in Mexico.
However, they play these games for a reason and Mexico showed what that reason is. This Mexican team came out hot in the preliminary round of the tournament and never slowed. After a 91-89 victory over Puerto Rico on Wednesday, Mexico was crowned as champs, earning a spot in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, as did the other three teams that finished in the top-four.
It was Mexico’s one NBA player, newly signed Atlanta Hawks center Gustavo Ayon, that carried the team to hoisting the trophy. In 38 minutes in the championship matchup, Ayon put up 20 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal, though he did only shoot 7-18 from the floor. That was just another impressive game in the tournament for him, though.
In the 10 games that Ayon and Mexico played, Ayon led his team in points, rebounds, steals and blocks while also coming in at fourth in assists. For the tournament he finished with averages of 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks in 28 minutes per game while shooting a great 58 percent from the floor and a solid 67.6 percent from the foul line.
Obviously Ayon will be matched up against better competition when he comes off of the bench for the Hawks in the 2013-2014 NBA season, but it’s hard to discredit how good he was in this tournament. Moreover, everyone caught a glimpse of how strong Ayon’s motor is at the tournament.
In the semi-final matchup, Ayon looked gassed in the third quarter after being relied on so heavily over the game and the teams eight previous contest. However, he came out in the fourth quarter and was busting his tail to make plays on both ends of the floor. That’s the type of thing the Hawks want to see and need from Ayon.
If Ayon can carry the momentum that he gathered at the FIBA Americas into the NBA season, it will be huge for the Hawks. Ayon playing at a high level behind starters Al Horford and Paul Millsap will give Atlanta a deep and dangerous frontcourt. The Hawks have been saddled with a reputation of “team that exits in the first round of the playoffs” in recent years, but additions of guys like Ayon and a restructuring of their team looks to have elevated them to a new level.
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