Hanno Mattola: First to the Finnish
When Hanno Mottola stepped onto the court for the Hawks on October 31, 2000, he became the first Finnish born basketball player to make it to the NBA. That night, as a starter, he scored 10 points and grabbed five boards in the Hawks’ loss to the Hornets, but more importantly, he set a new standard for basketball in Finland.
Fast forward a decade or so and Mottola is still trying to help raise the bar. Hanno’s experience on Finland’s national team dates back to 1995, when he debuted with the top team at the age of 18. Since then he has played 117 games for Finland, with four more big match-ups set for the coming weeks.
Earlier this summer the Finns won the Nordic Championship for the first time in 28 years, defeating host Sweden in the finals. Mottola scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds as Finland posted a dominant victory, 85-63. The team now shifts its focus to the EuroBasket 2011 Additional Qualifying Round, where they will compete against Portugal and Hungary for the final spot in championships that will be held later this summer in Lithuania.
Mottola’s track record on the Finnish national team includes a record-tying performance against Iceland in August of 2001, when he poured in 42 points in an 84-73 win. While he is no longer a top scoring options for the Finns, his presence in the paint and in the locker room make him invaluable to the team.
As the former Hawk prepares for this important stretch of games, we wish him good luck.