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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Ben DuBose

Rafael Stone not surprised by Usman Garuba’s strong EuroBasket play

Prospect forward Usman Garuba, who will soon enter his second NBA season with the Houston Rockets, has had a strong run in recent weeks at the European Basketball Championship (EuroBasket 2022) as a defensive anchor in Spain’s frontcourt.

In Tuesday’s 100-90 victory (box score) over Finland, which sent Spain into the tournament’s final four, the 20-year-old had 7 points (50% FG), 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in 16 minutes off the bench.

But Rockets general manager Rafael Stone isn’t too surprised by what he’s seen. After all, there’s a reason why Houston selected Garuba in the first round of the 2021 NBA draft. In an appearance at Monday’s company service day in Houston, Stone said of Garuba:

I think he can play defense at a really high level. It was a really hard year for him. We’ve talked about it. Certain things are outside of your control, and he was just hurt a lot.

It’s obviously good to see him getting back in the flow, feeling more confident, and impacting the game at a high level. He’s going to have to translate it to the NBA, which is different. What he’s shown the past couple weeks, we knew. We’ve seen that in years past. It is good to see him play well, but it’s on him and on us to find a way to translate that.

Stone went on to add that both Garuba and Alperen Sengun, who played well for Turkey prior to their elimination last weekend, had implemented new ideas brought to them by the Rockets.

“They are the guys that we thought they were,” Stone said of the duo. “I am happy with the progression. I think both have gotten better. They both got better, game by game by game, and I think that’s rewarding. Some of the stuff that we’ve asked them to work on, they’ve worked on, and in real-time you can see some of the results.”

Spain and Garuba will continue their EuroBasket run with a semifinal game on Friday, Sept. 16, which can be streamed at RocketsWatch. Depending on the result, Spain will then play in either the championship or third-place game on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Just over a week later, Garuba will report to 2022-23 training camp with the rest of the Rockets when it begins on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

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