Alejandro Abrines Redondo is a bright-eyed, big-smiled, easy-going spirit off the basketball court. His personable personality attracts attention from others and makes it easy for those observing him to like the 17-year-old.
Alex Abrines – as he is as known in everyday life – also makes it easy to enjoy his game on the court where he can do just about anything.
Abrines very well may be considered the biggest winner from the U18 European Championship in Wroclaw, Poland as he came out of nowhere for many international basketball observers to become the right-hand man to Spain floor general Jaime Fernandez.
“He’s great, he’s amazing, he’s spectacular,” said point guard Fernandez about the forward Abrines.
“He’s very intelligent. For him it’s very easy to be in this team because he knows how to play within a team. He has been greatly integrated as a person and a player. And he plays perfect with us.”
Fernandez is one six players from the current U18 team to win gold at the U16 European Championship two summers ago. That sextet – Fernandez, Alejandro Suarez, Julen Olaizola, Javier Medori, Jorge Sanz and Daniel Diez – then played last summer at the U17 FIBA World Championship but slumped to a 10th-placed finish of 12 teams.
This summer Abrines would like nothing more than to celebrate his 18th birthday – one day after the U18 final on August 1 – with a title in his first tournament with the Spanish national team.
And Abrines will have made a huge contribution to Spain capturing their first U18 gold since 2004 – a generation that produced Sergio Rodriguez, Carlos Suarez and Sergio Llull.
Through the first two rounds of six games, Abrines has averaged 14.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks in 25.7 minutes while shooting 51 percent from the field and 45 percent from long range (14 of 31) and hitting 82 percent of his free throws.
“He’s amazing as a person and a player. He is just amazing to play with him. You can pass to him and he will shoot or dunk. It’s so easy playing with him,” said Alejandro Suarez of Abrines.
“These players have experience to give to all of us other players. We have to learn from their experience and just play and have the motivation,” said Abrines.
“I am very happy with this experience. I have learned a lot here.”
Quick, explosive, graceful like a deer – or like Rudy Fernandez
Watching Abrines ease his way up and down the court reminds one of a deer – graceful, yet quick and explosive with his long strides but in control of his movements at all times. He even has a slam dunk title to his credit thanks to his excellent leaping ability.
Durign the game, Abrines seems to be wherever the ball is, especially in an important moment in the game.
With Spain leading by four points over France with six minutes left in their final Preliminary Round game, Abrines nailed a three-pointer and then on the following possession blocked Hugo Invernizzi’s shot. Less than two minutes later he drew a charge on William Howard.
With just more than two minutes to play, Abrines drove the lane to dunk for a 63-57 lead and then one-timed a pass from Fernandez onto Sanz in the corner for a back-breaking triple for a 66-57 lead with two minutes left.
And then with first place in the Qualifying Round group up for grabs against Lithuania, Abrines blocked Tauras Jogela’s shot with 2:33 left in the game to preserve a 78-74 lead.
When asked about Abrines, his teammates came up with a world and European champion from the NBA for a comparison.
“He’s like Rudy Fernandez. I don’t know how good he can be but he is very good, he can dunk, can shoot, he’s amazing,” said Suarez of Abrines.
Jaime Fernandez also thought of his namesake upon being asked about how good Abrines can be.
“Woo, I … he reminds me of Rudy Fernandez. He’s great.”
Local Mallorca player and son of former ACB player
How could a player of Abrines’ talent level be making his debut with the Spanish national team this summer? After all Spain are known as one of the absolute powerhouses in European basketball – also at the youth levels.
Abrines actually took a long time to be discovered as he played for a local club La Salle Palma de Mallorca. Once Unicaja coach Garcia Aito Reneses finally spotted him, the Euroleague club boss brought him to Malaga for the start of last season.
“Nobody knew me. This year I played with a big team (Unicaja) and everyone looked at me and they called me to the national team,” said Abrines.
Abrines was one of just five players born in 1993 to play in the Spanish second flight LEB Gold. And it was in the LEB Gold where Spanish U18 national team coach Luis Guil saw the lanky youngster as coach with LEB Gold winners Murcia.
“He played very good in the second division, which I feel is the fifth best in all of Europe. He has a lot of talent. He does everything easy and it’s fun for him,” said Guil.
When asked why nobody in Spain found Abrines earlier, Guil said: “He was playing for fun. Even now, he is really having so much fun.”
The way Abrines plays it’s clear that he has basketball in his genes with his excellent understanding of the game.
His father, Gabriel Abrines, played in Real Madrid’s youth system in the early 1980s. The 2.02m forward reached the ACB in 1989 playing for Huesca Magia and later played for Cáceres C.B., Somontano Huesca, C.B. Gran Canaria and Baloncesto Fuenlabrada before playing his final season for La Salle Palma of the Segunda División in 1998-99.
Abrines the son was conceived in the city of Cáceres where his father helped Cáceres CB to promotion to the ACB in 1991-92. But he was born in Palma de Mallorca, where his father retired from basketball and as a 44-year-old is currently a part owner of a computer company and coaches the La Salle club, where Alex played as a youngster.
Son making name for himself
Abrines the son is definitely well on his way to making a name for himself.
In 2010-11, he played for CB Ins Oftamologico C Ricon of the LEB Gold and averaged 5.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 30 games. Abrines also played three games in the EBA fourth division for Unicaja’s second team, averaging 9.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals including a 24-point performance with 5 of 6 triples against CB Melilla.
Malaga clearly saw what they have in Abrines, extending his expiring contract in June 2011 his contract for two more years with an option for a third. And Unicaja coach Jesus Mateo has invited Abrines to the senior team’s training camp for this season.
“He will be a professional player at a very high level,” said Guil.
Abrines is also dedicated to his education, rejecting a tour of China with one of Unicaja’s teams to finish his exams. This past season he was going to school all day and only training in the evenings. And now he plans on attending university.
But he also hopes to help out with Mateo’s team.
“I will combine time with the first and second league teams if the coaches want,” said Abrines.
One thing is for certain, more and more people in European basketball will want to see Alex Abrines play. The emerging star is too good to miss.