Ricky Rubio was the No. 5 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft at age 18. Now at age 20, he has not played an NBA game, raising questions as to whether he really is a future NBA star.

Ricky Rubio can’t jump high, doesn’t move fast and isn’t especially tall. His shot is mechanical, and his scoring stats remain underwhelming — usually just a few points a game for his Spanish professional and national teams. But he possesses one talent in abundance that gives him a chance to one day make a splash, and perhaps star, in the NBA.

What could make Ricky Rubio an NBA star? His court vision.
Sport scientists call it “field sense” or “court vision,” the ability to anticipate what will happen next when bodies are in motion and split-second decisions must be made.

Steve Nash and Jason Kidd have it. So did Wayne Gretzky. It’s helped Drew Brees to a Super Bowl title, and enabled the Hall of Fame careers of other undersized athletes.

“He’s a genius,” Rubio’s youth coach, Marc Calderon, says of his former pupil.

That’s an appropriate word to use, say sport scientists who spoke with “Outside the Lines” about Rubio. Despite its name, court vision is not a function of vision itself — the ability to see well — but the ability to collect, process and act upon large amounts of data in a dynamic setting. All human beings use this cognitive skill as they pick their way through crowds without bumping into others, as does every point guard running the break. Rubio, 20, simply brings superior power and efficiency to the challenge.

Court vision is what allowed him to turn pro at age 14 and made him a YouTube sensation. As scouts say, he’s capable of one “wow” play, usually a pass, per game.


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