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Lithania Argentina Day 13 of the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey. 9 september 2010 Quarter Final Round FIBA/Castoria/JF Molliere

VITORIA (Olympics/Liga Endesa) - Now hear this.

Pablo Prigioni should be regarded as one of the elite players in Argentina's rich basketball history.

For a point guard to compete at the highest level in Europe for as long as he has, and to be the most influential player on the court more times than not in a league as tough as the Spanish top flight, makes him worthy of the highest praise.

The Cordoba-born Prigioni, 34, has the most appearances for a foreign player in the Liga Endesa (formerly called ACB).

He's at 442 and counting.

Since launching his Spanish career in the 1999-2000 season with Fuenlabrada, Prigioni has been one of the most durable players in Spain as well as Europe, and one of its most creative.

He has been a true conductor of the orchestra for every team that he has suited up for.

The club he is most strongly identified with is Baskonia in Vitoria, Spain.

He played for the Basque outfit from the 2003-04 campaign through the 2008-09 season, and after a two-year stint with Real Madrid, Prigioni returned to Baskonia for this basketball year.

Control and respect

If one watches Prigioni during a game, he has just as must control over his teammates as his coach, the great Dusko Ivanovic.

He also has their respect.

"Pablo is a very experienced player and he always brings something extra with his passing of the ball, his defense," said Mirza Teletovic, the sweet-shooting forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina, to FIBA.com.

Teletovic first played with Prigioni at Baskonia in the 2006-07 season.

"He's a great character," Teletovic said.

"He tries to play defense as hard as he can and he always motivates players.

"He's very good."

The 1.86m Prigioni is a slick passer, a player who hits timely shots and a thief of the highest order on defense.

He doesn’t so much run up and down the floor as much as prowl around it.

Prigioni has quick feet and quick hands.

As a leader, he is the first one to call out teammates if they make a bone-headed play, as Serbia's Nemanja Bjelica did in the fourth quarter of Baskonia's gritty and determined victory at Valencia Basket last weekend.

Ivanovic didn't need to tell Bjelica anything after he tried to drive from the right wing and turned 360 degrees before throwing the ball wildly into the corner and out of bounds.

Prigioni gave him the tongue-lashing and all Ivanovic had to do was pull the young Serbian off the floor.

There were no hard feelings.

"This kind of thing happens in a game," Bjelica said to FIBA.com.

"It's normal. We had a misunderstanding but now, everything is fine."

At the conclusion of the Valencia game, Prigioni should have received a standing ovation.

He pulled all the right strings in his 30 minutes, converting all four of his free-throw attempts and scoring six points while handing out five assists, coming up with four steals and corralling seven rebounds.

Prigoni finished with a game-high valuation of 21.

There was no doubt about the MVP.

Savvy veteran

Prigioni was a youthful, exuberant point guard who tore apart opponents when he arrived in Spain and continues to be the same type of player, only one who is even more influential because of his experience.

The question is, how long can Prigioni continue to play at the highest level?

He really is showing no signs of slowing down.

“I try to work hard every day,” Prigioni said to FIBA.com.

“I try to take care of myself, my body and how I eat, how I sleep.

“I try to do everything to feel good, to try to fight with young players that press me for 40 minutes.

“If I can continue like this, I don’t see any reason to go down, no?”

Eventually, Prigioni will have to stop.

Surely he accepts that?

“Okay, when I’m 40, 42, okay,” he said.

“But when I’m 34, 35, and if you do the correct things, you can stay at the high level.”

Prigioni’s role with Argentina’s national team is hugely important, too.

While he was not in the team that won the gold medal in 2004 at the Athens Olympics, Prigioni did play in Beijing four years later and helped Argentina capture bronze.

He was the point guard on the Argentina teams that finished fourth and fifth at the last two FIBA World Championships.

Prigioni enjoyed every minute of last summer when he played in the FIBA Americas Championship in his homeland in Mar del Plata and won the gold medal.

He was vital, too, averaging 9.8 points, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals, although his impact on a game cannot just be measured with statistics.

It’s with his national team, it seems, that Prigioni is most happy.

He’s looking at this summer as if it will be one of the most important in his life.

“We enjoy it a lot when we play together every summer,” Prigioni said.

“And the Olympic Games is not a normal tournament.

“There are a lot of athletes from every sport and every country.

“It’s the moment that you will remember your whole life.”


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