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Serge Ibaka is Now a Spanish Citizen and Ready to Play for Spain in the 2011 Eurobasket

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Via Yahoo! Sports and the AP:

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka(notes) has been granted Spanish nationality on Friday, clearing the way for him to help Spain defend its European championship this summer.

"Spain is a country that has given me a lot," Ibaka said after Spain’s Council of Ministers approved his petition for nationality. "It will be an honor to give Spain back all that it has given me on the court."

This is excellent news! The situation has absolutely NOTHING to do with the lockout, but rather Ibaka's desire to play for the Spanish national team this Summer. Again, this has nothing to do with European club team play, which starts this fall.

Serge Ibaka is originally from the Republic of Congo, but they did not even field a team in potential qualifiers for the upcoming FIBA Africa Championship. Additionally, he has never played for the Congo national team.

Spain is already the favourite to win the 2011 Eurobasket competition, and this addition to their team only strengthens their case. They already feature the Gasol brothers (both of which the Thunder know all too well), Mavericks guard Rudy Fernandez, former Grizzlies guard Juan Carlos Navarro, Raptors PG Jose Calderon, and yet to be seen NBA standout Ricky Rubio. They also feature a good deal of talent that has played only domestically. Ibaka will help to strengthen the power forward spot, which is probably their weakest position at this point.

Spain's main challengers in the competition will be Greece, which is loaded with domestic talent, Turkey, who finished second in the 2011 FIBA World Championship and boast NBA players, Russia, which won Eurobasket 2007 and has its' own strong domestic league, Serbia, which finished fourth in the 2010 World Championship and second in the 2009 Eurobasket, and Lithuania, which has slipped in recent years but holds homecourt advantage.

Various NBA players will be participating in the competition, including former Thunder Center Nenad Krstic (Serbia) and Tibor Pleiss (Germany), a current Thunder prospect whom was drafted last year. Thabo Seflosha is of Swiss nationality and plays for the Swiss national team, but they did not qualify for the 2011 Eurobasket competition.

More coverage of Eurobasket 2011 is forthcoming. The tournament will start on the 31st of August and will take place in Lithuania.