Two Nets stashes and a D-Leaguer from Long Island all saw national team action over the past week with Aleksandar Vezenkov, the 6’9” Bulgarian forward who the Nets selected at No. 57, having the best game in the worldwide FIBA qualifiers.
In a Sunday loss to Finland at the Helsinki Ice Palace, Vezenkov poured in 28 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and shot 8-of-18 overall and 5-of-9 in FIBA Europe action, but Finland triumphed 75-70. Bulgaria must beat Iceland in the next round of FIBA European Qualifiers to have any chance at the World Cup competition next year. If not, there will be no summer national team competition for the 22-year-old.
Vezenkov, who’s been used sparingly by F.C. Barcelona this season, was first granted permission to play in both Bulgaria’s national games, but at the last minute Vezenkov was called back by Barca so he could play vs. Real Madrid. In the Madrid blowout, the Nets second rounder scored 11 and then flew to Helsinki.
Juan Pablo Vaulet, the 6’7” shooting forward the Nets took in the second round of the 2015 Draft, got minutes for Team Argentina this weekend in FIBA Americas action. Still recovering from his latest surgery (his fourth in four years) the 21-year-old played only two minutes in Uruguay’s upset of Argentina, then started and playe well in the team’s win over Paraguay on Sunday, coming away with his best game in recent international play.
As the starter at small forward, he scored nine points, grabbed seven rebounds, handed out two assists and stole the ball twice in 21 minutes for the blue-and-white. Argentina remains alive with the win. Former Net Luis Scola is one of JPV’s teammates.
In a halftime show retiring ex-NBA star Andres Nocioni’s national team jersey, the gold and bronze medal-winning Olympian said he’d been helping Vaulet with his shooting mechanics. JPV has of late improved both his three-point shooting and his free throw game.
“I feel that I am in a learning stage, where all the things that are happening to me are useful for me to learn, whether games or training,” Vaulet told an Argentine interviewer. “All the experiences that happen to me are of a lot of growth and I feel better and better as time passes.”
Meanwhile Long Island Net Akil Mitchell got minutes with Team Panama on Friday, grabbing nine rebounds and scoring two points, also vs. Paraguay. Panama won both its games and Mitchell, a 6’9” center, is back with Long Island.