Few people study basketball as much as ESPN's Fran Fraschilla. The longtime analyst, in speaking with Kendra Andrews and Grant Liffman on the latest edition of the Dubs Talk podcast, explains how "sensational" former second-round draft pick Nico Mannion has been for Team Italy in leading the nation to an appearance in the Tokyo Olympics.
"He was one of their two or three mainstays, their starting point guard, played with a lot of confidence, kinda the swag that we remember a little bit at Arizona and also on the AAU circuit, where he was one of the top players in the country," Fraschilla told NBC Sports Bay Area.
Mannion was the third-leading scorer of all players at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, averaging 17.7 points over the three games for Team Italy. Mannion also shot 45.5 percent from 3-point range as he helped lead the Italians to their first Olympic berth since 2004.
"More importantly for the Warriors, he was sensational in the qualifying round. Italy came out of nowhere, Nico was a big part of that, and I think his confidence level grew a little bit more. I think Steve Kerr and the staff and Bobby Myers are going to love that," Fraschilla added.
Fraschilla has paid close attention to FIBA competition leading up to the Tokyo Games, as he will be an analyst for NBC Sports during the event.
Mannion was a top-10 recruit coming out of high school, and although he failed to make much of a national impact during his lone collegiate season at Arizona, the young guard long has been considered one of the country's best players in his class.
Golden State Warriors
After a rookie season that saw Mannion bounce between the G League and the Warriors' bench, experience on the international stage is a tremendous opportunity for him to compete against some of the world's best players on a massive stage.
Mannion could run into some of his Warriors colleagues at the Tokyo Olympics, as Draymond Green and Steve Kerr will be part of Team USA, while assistant coach Mike Brown will be heading up Team Nigeria.
Perhaps a strong run in the Olympics could fuel Mannion to earn a significant spot in the Warriors' rotation next season, especially since the bench unit could use more consistent scorers with outside shooting prowess.