Most observers are amazed at the early success of Spanish wunderkind Ricky Rubio in the NBA, but at least a couple San Antonio Spurs are claiming to have known this was destined all along.

Tiago Splitter, whose Caja Laboral Baskonia met Rubio’s FC Barcelona many a time since the lad debuted in the ACB at age 14, is quoted over at Spanish-league Tu Basket that he was “amazed at the way [Rubio]’s playing with freedom. In Spain, he was on a team under a lot of pressure to win it all. Here, the coach is giving him the ball in the fourth quarter and he’s playing with confidence. That’s hard to do in the first year.”

Splitter cited Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman as a key factor in Rubio’s early NBA success. As TuBasket points out, with Barcelona, Rubio was bound in Xavi Pascual’s more rigid style and ultimately lost playing time to Victor Sada, who was better equipped to handle the offensive game plan – despite Rubio’s well above-average play in pick-and-roll sets.

Currently, Rubio is averaging a neat 12.0 minutes per fourth quarter, the only NBA player at any position to post this mark.

Added Manu Ginobili: “[The Spurs-Timberwolves game] made a big, big impression on me. On Sunday night [in the game against the Mavericks], he was impressive, the way he led the team in the fourth quarter, finding open players. And, of course, he was helped by Kevin Love, who is playing incredibly.”

Among Rubio’s attributes as a player, according to the Argentine, include “A lot of ball control and [court vision]. But that’s something we knew was going to happen. He may have other weaknesses, but he plays calmly, and is very talented at passing the ball and dribbling.”

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