|27 July 2012|
Georgia's Tornike "Toko" Shengelia has been a star on the rise in Europe for the past few seasons.
Only last year at the U20 European Championship Division B in Sarajevo, the 2.07m forward averaged 29.9 points and 12 rebounds per game in leading his team to the gold medal.
Shengelia was MVP of the event, and then joined the senior side as Georgia made a first appearance at the EuroBasket, helping them advance to the Second Round in Lithuania. He was later one of the nominees for the FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year award.
|Tornike Shengelia's meteoric rise in the last few seasons has paid off|
Now the 20-year-old is going to face a different kind of challenge.
The native of Tbilisi is going to play in the NBA after signing with the Brooklyn Nets.
Shengelia, who spent the past couple of seasons playing in Belgium's top flight with Charleroi, was taken with the 54th overall pick in this summer's NBA Draft by Philadelphia and the Sixers then dealt his rights to the Nets.
Brooklyn offered him a chance to play for their summer league team in Orlando and he impressed, shooting 52.9% from the floor and averaging 10.2 points in 21 minutes per game.
More important was Shengelia's tenacity on defense.
Nets general manager Billy King, who built his reputation as a defensive-minded player for coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University, and his colleagues liked what they saw in Shengelia.
"Toko had a very good summer league which led us to signing him for this season," King said.
Shengelia has shown how quickly a player can go in basketball if he applies himself.
On the books of Valencia Basket in the 2009-10 campaign, a young Shengelia got sparse minutes that year in the Neven Spahija-coached team that won the Eurocup.
He spoke to fibaeurope.com before their title-winning triumph that year, and stressed that his main aim was to simply keep working hard.
Now, Shengelia has realized one of his dreams. He has an NBA contract.
Georgia will be hoping that they can continue to benefit from his progression in the game.
They take on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Netherlands, Romania and Latvia in the Qualification Round for EuroBasket 2013.
In that Bosnia and Herzegovina side, in fact, is expected to be one of his new Nets teammates, Mirza Teletovic, a player that has finally decided to leave Baskonia (Caja Laboral) in Spain's top flight for the NBA.