MINNEAPOLIS -- Ricky Rubio is basketball's rock star, a pro since he was 14 with a flair on the court that has made him the sport's first international YouTube sensation. His mop of hair, dark eyes, lanky 6-4, 180-pound frame and deft passing skills have drawn repeated comparisons to the legendary Pete Maravich, and teenage girls are said to swoon when he leaves the locker room of his Spanish pro team. So it is not surprising that the selection of this precocious 18-year-old Spaniard by the Timberwolves in last week's NBA draft has created a buzz around the woebegone franchise not seen since Kevin Garnett's glory days. But excitement is tempered on two fronts: Will a huge buyout required of his current European contract prevent him from playing with the Wolves next season, as Spanish newspapers have reported? And just how good is Rubio? Interviews with numerous coaches and players with firsthand knowledge of Rubio's talents paint a picture as fuzzy as many of his YouTube highlights. Rubio can pass the ball and would sell tickets. But does he currently possess the strength and quickness to defend NBA guards? And will he ever score in a manner that even remotely resembles Maravich, who averaged more than 44 points a game in college before becoming an NBA all-star? "Oh, I only compare to Pete Maravich because of my haircut," Rubio said during a teleconference on draft night. "I don't compare about the play. He was a pure scorer, you know? And I'm not a pure scorer. I'm a point guard." It is those point-guard skills -- passing and floor leadership -- that thrust Rubio on the international stage at the age of 17 when he played for Spain's silver medal team in Beijing Olympics. But some are asking whether Rubio's ability matches his press clippings. Brandon Jennings, selected 10th overall in this year's draft after spending a year playing in Europe, said of Rubio: "I think the dude is just all hype." Former Minnesota Gophers forward Quincy Lewis, also a European pro, has played against Rubio and his DKV Joventut team several times in recent seasons. Lewis said Rubio has plenty of positives to his game, but the former Gopher has reservations, especially in the area of Rubio's long-range shooting. "The one thing he does have that's a plus is that he has a certain type of buzz and excitement around him," Lewis said. "That's important to the NBA. . . . In the NBA, excitement is just as important as whether he can play. There's a lot of mystery (with Rubio), and right now the mystery is as important as anything." Child prodigy Esteve Rubio noticed that his son had special basketball talent by the time Ricky was 6, according to a June Sports Illustrated profile. At the age of 12, Ricky Rubio joined the DKV Joventut development team, and at 14 he signed a five-year contract with Joventut, which in essence was his hometown pro team and allowed him to live at home and take high school classes. He was the youngest player to join Spain's ACB League, one of Europe's best. Former college coach Fran Fraschilla, a basketball analyst for ESPN who focuses on international players for the NBA draft, said the ACB League is a step below the NBA, but a step above any major college conference. Rubio's legend took hold when he was 16 and led his Spanish junior national team to the FIBA Europe under-16 championship. His signature game came in a 110-106 double-overtime win against Russia, when he scored 52 points with 24 rebounds, 12 assists and six steals, forcing the first overtime with a half-court shot at the buzzer. At the age of 17, still living at home with posters of LeBron James and Chris Paul adorning his bedroom wall, he went head-to-head with those same players in Beijing. Rubio was a reserve until the gold medal game, when he replaced injured Jose Calderon as starting point guard. Spain had lost to Team USA by 37 points in the preliminary round, but with Rubio running the show the Spanish team trailed by only four points with 2:25 to play before losing, 118-107. Although Rubio's numbers were modest -- six points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals -- his floor leadership made NBA executives take notice. It was then that Rubio decided he was ready for the NBA, and would enter the 2009 draft. "I think there are certain things you can teach, and certain things you are born with," Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said Thursday. "He has certain things he was born with, meaning court vision and ability to run a team and pass and make plays for other people." Doubters remain Rubio has been called a once-in-a-generation player by some NBA executives. Others have grown cautious in recent months. Rubio once was considered a possible No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but fell to No. 5 to the Wolves. Why? One reason is his $6.6 million buyout to escape his Joventut contract, making it likely he'll play in Europe at least one more year, and possibly two since a slightly larger buyout exists after next season. He averaged only 10.0 points last season for Joventut, shooting 39.1 percent from the field, although supporters say he was bothered by lingering wrist problems from an injury dating to the Beijing Olympics. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, an assistant on the U.S. Olympic team, calls Rubio "a talent," but adds that his "shooting has got to improve, from what I've seen." The Wolves selected Boeheim's point guard from last season, Jonny Flynn, with the No. 6 overall pick, and Boeheim clearly feels Flynn is the most likely of this year's draft choices to provide immediate help. Kahn said he has only one answer for those who doubt Rubio's shooting or strength: "He's only 18." Translation: Rubio's shortcomings will be resolved by practice time and physical maturity. The immediate question is where Rubio will play next season. Although Spanish newspapers claimed this week that Rubio will stay put for the final two years of his contract, Kahn said Thursday that no one has told him that. The Wolves and their sagging fan base could certainly use Rubio's marketing appeal immediately. But if Rubio doesn't want to play in Minnesota, a trade to another NBA team remains a possibility. Kahn said he is not seeking to trade Rubio, but neither is he telling other teams the draftee is untouchable. "That's the biggest mystery of all," Fraschilla said of where Rubio will be playing next winter. "It's very much up in the air. The only thing I know about Ricky is that you can't go to a ballgame and not keep your eyes on him the whole time. You never know what he's going to do with the ball, and he's a magician in that regard." Is he a magician talented enough to make uninterested Wolves fans reappear at Target Center? That's the precise question that Kahn must answer as he juggles the options for Rubio's future.