Age no barrier: Argentina's 39-year-old captain Luis Scola
Shanghai (AFP) - Luis Scola is 39, his hair has more than a few streaks of grey and at the Basketball World Cup in China he has shared the court with rivals half his age.
But Argentina’s evergreen captain is playing a big part in the country’s bid to win the world crown for the first time since the inaugural edition in 1950.
He was named player of the game in Sunday’s 91-65 victory over Poland, drilling 21 points to propel Argentina into a quarter-final showdown with title-contenders Serbia on Tuesday.
The forward was also named best player against Nigeria for registering a double-double, scoring 23 points and 10 rebounds.
The last member of Argentina’s so-called “Golden Generation” who won the Olympics in 2004, Scola has won every major trophy in international basketball, except the World Cup.
“What age are you talking about, I’m 28, right?” he joked after Argentina swatted aside Venezuela in the second round.
Speaking in an unmistakably American accent, a product of spending a decade in the NBA up until 2017, Scola added: “I understand everybody talking about my age, but my brain does not function that way.
“I am not going to the court and thinking, oh my god, I’m older than these guys, or, oh my god, these guys are five, 10, 15 years younger than me.
“To me, it’s natural.
“I just think that I’m a player, I am a good player and I’m going to make good plays and help my team win.”
- ‘No goodbye tour’ -
However much he tries to avoid it, talk about his age and how much longer he can plod on for is never far away.
Scola, who spent the last two seasons in Chinese basketball, is featuring in a record-equalling fifth World Cup.
Last week he reached another milestone when his heroics against Nigeria moved him up to second on the FIBA World Cup all-time scoring list, trailing only the legendary Brazilian Oscar Schmidt.
If that was a proud moment, there is the growing prospect that Argentina could be in for a shout of at least a medal, although Serbia will present a mighty challenge despite losing to Spain on Sunday.
That same day, Scola shared the court with the youngest player in the tournament, Poland’s 18-year-old Aleksander “Olek” Balcerowski.
Scola had said that what happens at the World Cup will dictate if he would carry on for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Doing so would have a nice symmetry because he is the only remaining member of the Argentina team that stunned the USA on the way to Olympic gold at Athens 2004.
He was also in the team which won silver at the 2002 World Cup.
Asked what it was like to now be the grandfather of a team whose average age is 27, younger than most other rosters at the World Cup, Scola replied: “This is not like a tour or a goodbye week.
“This is a world championship and we are trying to go all the way to the medals.
“We don’t do maths with the ages.”