Nocioni celebrates Argentina's qualification

Sep 2, 2007 - 5:28 PM By Matias Greco Special to PA SportsTicker

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Ticker) - Andres Nocioni may have missed out on playing for Argentina at the FIBA Americas Championship, but he was at the forefront of celebration after the national team clinched qualification to the Olympics.

Argentina will head to Beijing as the defending champion, securing its place by beating Brazil, 91-80, in Las Vegas to reach Sunday's final against the United States.

Nocioni sat out the tournament as he continues his recovery from a foot injury which limited his impact for the Chicago Bulls last season. He is thrilled at the way his teammates have performed without him.

"The guys have allowed me to enjoy an incredible moment," he told the Clarin newspaper in Argentina.

"Everything was perfect and even better when we defeated Brazil. I swear I've been moved by them. My heart is in Las Vegas."

Even without a host of NBA players like Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Nocioni and Walter Herrmann, plus other stars like Pepe Sanchez and Ruben Wolkowyski, Argentina managed to achieve its objective.

"We have to take our hats off to them because they proved Argentinian basketball is on top of the world and they have given us the chance to go for the gold medal again in Beijing," Nocioni added.

When asked if he would make himself available for Beijing, he said: "Well, I am scared now. Perhaps they don't need me!

"I don't know if they will have a place in the team for me after what they have achieved."

Nocioni singled out Houston Rockets new boy Luis Scola for particular praise.

"Luis has been by far the best player in the championship," he said. "But Paolo Quinteros, Roman Gonzalez, (Carlos Matias) Sandes, (Antonio) Porta, Leo (Gutierrez) ... every player has played their part perfectly.

"What they have achieved is incredible. I want to congratulate all of them and the technical staff. Coach (Sergio) Hernandez did things very well and I'm very happy."

Argentina faces Team USA in Las Vegas later Sunday.

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