San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter and Barcelona Regal point guard Marcelo Huertas will be the leaders of the Brazilian national team when they compete for an Olympic berth in Argentina later this month.
Three of their top players were unavailable for coach Ruben Magnano.
Nene Hilario who played for the Denver Nuggets last season was the first one to withdraw from the team as he decided to prioritize his professional career.
Leandro Barbosa followed Nene as he resigned for personal reasons and then signed a deal with Flamengo, one of the most popular teams in the Brazilian League, where he will play during the NBA lockout.
Anderson Varejao was planning to play in Mar del Plata but an injury in his right ankle ruled him out of the tournament.
Despite being short-handed, Magnano, a gold medalist in Athens 2004 with Argentina, remains confident with his current squad.
“I’m really optimistic,” said the Argentina-born coach. “We don’t even think about the players that are missing, we have a great team.”
However, without Nene and Varejao, Splitter will have to do his best to man the middle for Brazil.
“There are high-level players from great teams from Brazil and Europe,” explained Tiago.
“The job has to be shared and we will all have to do a little bit better.”
Team Brazil will meet Canada and Puerto Rico in the Jenaro “Tuto” Marchand Cup, in Foz de Iguacu, starting on Wednesday as part of their preparation for the Olympic qualifiers.
The FIBA Americas Championship tips off on August 30 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
The finalists will qualify for the London Games in 2012, while the teams that come in third, fourth and fifth will book spots in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.