Gregory Echenique (US Presswire)
Seven current or newly graduated college basketball players will play for their respective nations in two weeks at the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela. The champion, runner-up and third-place finisher at the 12-team event will complete the Olympic tournament field.
Here's a look at the college players who will participate in the event and their chances of earning a trip to London for the Olympics later this summer:
Gregory Echenique, C, Creighton (Venezuela): Echenique started at center for Venezuela last summer at the FIBA Americas tournament in Argentina, leading his country to a fifth-place finish. That wasn't sufficient to lock up Venezuela's first Olympic bid since 1992, but it did get the nation a spot in the last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament next month — as the host nation, no less. Echenique, who averaged 9.7 points, 7.3 rebounds as a junior last season, will compete for the starting center job once again.
Rob Loe, C, Saint Louis (New Zealand): It's a huge disappointment for New Zealand that highly touted incoming Pittsburgh freshman Steven Adams has chosen not to play in the FIBA Qualifying Tournament, but the Kiwis will still feature one promising college center. Loe, a 6-11 outside shooting threat, started at center for Saint Louis last season as a sophomore but often played sparingly, averaging 5.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game.
Deividas Dulkys, G, Florida State (Lithuania): Since Lithuania has medaled three times and made the semifinals each of the past five Olympics, the Qualifying Tournament is not a comfortable spot for the basketball-crazed nation to be. Dulkys, a senior on last season's Seminoles team, will attempt to try to help his homeland survive a group that includes host Venezuela and Nigeria with his outside shooting and defensive prowess.
Orlando Sanchez, F, St. John's (Dominican Republic): St. John's fans will get a glimpse of one of their future frontcourt standouts next month when Sanchez tries to help the Dominican Republic reach the Olympics for the first time. Sanchez averaged 10.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists for Monroe College last season, but the 6-foot-9 forward likely will be counted on as a defensive stopper off the bench for the Dominican team.
Amurys Fermin, G, Cal Poly (Dominican Republic): Unable to join the Dominican team in the past as a result of academic commitments, Fermin finally received his chance last week after graduating from Cal Poly. Fermin, the Big West assists leader as a senior last season, will come off the bench for the 12-member Dominican team. He performed admirably in his first exhibition game last week, scoring seven points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists in a victory over a D-League all-star team.
Eloy Vargas, F, Kentucky (Dominican Republic): Even though the national title game was Vargas' final time wearing a Kentucky jersey, the 6-11 forward will get to play for his college coach one final time. Vargas will provide interior size and depth coming off the bench for John Calipari's Dominican team, which is training at Kentucky in advance of the FIBA Qualifying Tournament.
Melvin Ejim, F, Iowa State (Nigeria): One of 15 players vying for a spot on Nigeria's 12-man roster, Ejim hasn't secured a spot on the team yet but just getting a tryout is certainly an accomplishment. Ejim, the lone college player trying out for the team, averaged 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds as a sophomore last season, earning honorable mention all-Big 12 honors.
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