|13 September 2011|
|Plenty of reasons to smile - Going into Wednesday's Quarter-Final, Marc Gasol is averaging 14.6 points and 7.4 rebounds at the EuroBasket while Pau Gasol is Spain's leading scorer with 20.4 points per game|
Spain coach Sergio Scariolo made a decision earlier this summer to base his game plan on the Gasol brothers and, so far, it has paid dividends at the EuroBasket.
At no previous tournament had Pau and Marc played so many minutes together to combine their skills and propel Spain into the Quarter-Finals.
Pau, returning to the team for the first time since the gold-medal win at EuroBasket 2009, is leading Spain in scoring with an average 20.4 points per game.
But the reliable performances of his younger brother Marc that has been the real story for the defending champions this summer.
Marc has averaged 14.6 points to go with his 7.4 rebounds per game.
"Marc has improved so much in recent years and has acquired a very high level," said Pau."It's difficult to stop him."
The signs of a more potent Marc were there in the 2010-11 NBA season with Memphis, when he was an interior force for the Grizzlies, arguably the most improved team in the league.
Gasol and the Grizzlies upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the play-offs.
What Scariolo had feared was that, by placing the two Gasols on the court at the same time, Spain would lose its playing identity - defending and running.
However, the Italian tactician could not be happier with how things have worked out.
"I never had two centers as dominant in any team that I've trained before," the coach admitted.
"But the work to complement Pau and Marc is a team one and we've had to work on
this from day one.
"It is an effort every player is making.
"There is no team that can play with two bigs, defending well and running on the court.
"Pau and Marc's characteristics made me consider that this was possible."
When looking at Marc, one cannot help but look back.
Marc's fortunes on the basketball court improved dramatically five years ago when former Spain coach Pepu Hernandez called the seven-footer into the national squad as a replacement for back-injury victim Fran Vazquez.
Having received just limited time on the court for Barcelona in the 2005-06 ACB and Euroleague campaigns, Marc travelled to Japan with Hernandez's team and played a vital role coming off the bench to help the Spaniards capture gold at the FIBA World Championship.
Returning to Spain to play for Akasvayu Girona, Marc's confidence soared.
"The World Championship allowed me to develop my game," he said.
"It gave me motivation to see where I was, what I wanted to do, what my goal was."
Five years later and after three seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA, the 2.15m tall center has established himself as one of the main dangers for rival teams.
Marc had a game-high 24 points in his team's 77-68 victory over Germany in Group E.
He followed that performance with a game-high 10 rebounds to go with his 20 points in the 85-59 triumph over Serbia that booked Spain's ticket to the last eight of the competition.
"Marc has now much more of an important weight because he is a very capable player," said Scariolo.
"Defensively, he has been fantastic.
"He is defending direct block as I've never seen him do before.
"Marc has grown as a player, he has gained security, confidence in himself.
"He has gone a higher level.
"I like Marc's role in this team."
Despite the attention, the 26-year-old is keeping his feet on the ground.
"Individual stats are not immportant," said Marc. "One day one player stands out and another day another one does.
"What is important is that each of us brings something to the team."