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Thread: Eurobasket 2009 random news/articles

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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    Default Eurobasket 2009 random news/articles

    Nilsen: EuroBasket's Ageless Wonders

    To quote American author Mark Twain, ‘Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.'

    On any level such wise words should give us all some comfort as we start counting the wrinkles. Especially those of you who, like me, are at that pivotal age and contemplating hanging up the basketball shoes for good and retiring from the amateur game.

    Having recently found myself emitting the first of what I know will be a lifetime of painful groans when having to bend down to do pretty much anything, let alone picking an actual basketball, the philosophy of Twain is helpful although only up until a point.

    I recently found myself desperately in need of something a little more tangible to convince myself to continue playing and suddenly it dawned on me that there will of course be a fair sprinkling of veteran players at EuroBasket 2009 - all of whom will have a significant impact on the success of their respective national teams.

    These guys can give me the inspiration I need to deflect to the ‘grandad' jibes I find myself being subjected to in the locker room nowadays and provide useful ammunition against my more youthful team-mates by proving that being a good player is about more than just flashy moves.

    The most important factor is the influence you still have on your team and that havinng already passed the milestone of 30 doesn't necessarily mean you are destined for the basketball scrapheap.

    Time to give some deserved respect to this selection of Poland bound veterans.

    Vrbica Stefanov, FYR of Macedonia (35 years old)

    Vrbica Stefanov is a legend of the game in the FYR of Macedonia and the playmaker will end his glittering career at EuroBasket 2009 having already retired from club basketball last summer to prepare himself for this one last hurrah.

    This five time Macedonian sportsman of the year is the leader of the team and there are few point guards with the ability to influence a team the way that Stefanov does.

    He is a legend of Macedonian basketball and often spoken about in the same breath as other greats like Petar Naumoski reflected by the decision of Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski earlier this year to hand the guard a deserved medal for the service he has given to his country.

    Stefanov has played at the highest level in Europe and picked up silverware in Italy and Greece as well as All Star status to underline his terrific ability. The wily Stefanov will penetrate with unerring regularity and find his team-mates on the perimeter at will.

    Having also led the side in scoring during qualification with 15 points, it is clear that he has lost none of his ability with age and it seems like a perfect time for Stefanov to take his bow having also been influential in his previous EuroBasket appearance exactly a decade ago.

    In fact he is so old in basketball terms that back in 2007 before the last EuroBasket in Spain, when hoping to secure a place in the tournament via the additional qualifying round, his own Coach Jovica Arsic explained "This is the last chance for Vrbica Stefanov to be a part of a major tournament."

    On that day it looked like his typical contribution of 18 points had sealed the deal but unfortunately, FYR of Macedonia did not get their place.

    However Stefanov proved his coach wrong. It wasn't his last chance and two years later, he is back at another EuroBasket for real and raring to get onto court.

    It will be fascinating to see that if having not played for a club at the top level this season he will be able to turn it back on like a tap in Poland. You wouldn't be against him.

    Igor Rakocevic, Serbia (31 years old)

    One of the most dominant and if not the most dominant player in Europe this season, ‘Rako' is back in a Serbia vest. If he plays well and leads the team in the backcourt, then Serbia have every chance of having a great tournament, such is the influence of this mesmeric guard who has got even better with age.

    Club coach Dusko Ivanovic has taken the ball out of his hands and pushed him almost exclusively into the shooting guard slot and it has paid amazing dividends having enjoyed a stellar season in Spain with TAU Ceramica.

    Idolised by the Baskonia fans, Rakocevic scooped the Euroleague MVP award across the regular season and just missed out on being crowned player of the year in the ACB, widely recognized as being the best league outside of the NBA.

    This is a veteran shooter who can be devastating when he gets hot, and will arrive in Poland having enjoyed arguably the best season of his career with many feeling he has taken his game to the next level.

    Nothing seems to faze him and he has developed into a genuine backcourt go to guy. A great option in crunch time, he loves the big occasion and has the ability to get regularly to the hoop as well as drill triples.

    Crucially, ‘Rako' can also pull up and make jump shots which make him so difficult to defend. While his NBA career never took off, he is universally recognised as one of the best talents in Europe with a long list of domestic titles to his name.

    This is one ‘golden oldie' in more ways than one having already pocketed a winners medal with Yugoslavia back in 2001 and is a potential MVP if Serbia do well.

    Meir Tapiro, Israel (34 years old)

    Having played all but one season of his career in his home country, Tapiro is not exactly a household name whole of Europe but perhaps he should be.

    He is a player that has captained his country and rather staggeringly, will be playing in his sixth EuroBasket tournament.

    To say Israel had a roller-coaster qualifying campaign would be the under statement of the year and the one person who really dug them out of an almighty hole and helped book their place in Poland was Tapiro.

    Always operating in the shadow of Euroleague stars like Eliyahu and Halperin, the rangy guard averaged 13.5 points and was the MVP in two of three critical group wins against Great Britain and the Czech Republic when he recorded 27 and 24 points respectively.

    The Bnei Hasheron star is still licking his wounds from an early exit in the Israel play-offs but when it comes to the National team, I am expecting him to show the devastating kind of shooting that he showed during qualifying.

    A leader and hugely underrated, keep an eye on Tapiro who will do the veteran brigade proud at this years tournament.

    Nate Reinking, Great Britain (35 years old)

    A relative unknown outside of Great Britain and Belgium, the guard is a trusty lieutenant of Coach Finch and has been one of the driving forces behind the incredible rise to prominence of the newest team on the Euro block.

    Reinking is one of only a couple of players on the GB roster that has been an ever present since the very start of a remarkable journey from Division B.

    While it is certainly not rare for coaches at every level and indeed in most sports to have favourites, there are few relationships as close knit as that between Reinking and Finch.

    The sharp shooter has followed Finch around at club level ever since linking up with the play caller in the British Basketball League (BBL) many years ago.

    Finch handed American born Reinking the naturalised spot and has since been faithful to him with the guard playing over 30 minutes in five of those games.

    He also repaid the trust shown in him by averaging almost 13 points with an incredible 75% floor shooting percentage inside the arc.

    When it comes to EuroBasket 2009, everyone outside of British basketball is putting two and two together and coming up with five by simply believing the introduction of Chicago Bulls shooter Ben Gordon into the roster means he will now be the main man alongside club team mate Deng.

    Wrong. It will take more than an NBA star to break up the bond that exists between Reinking and Finch and while his minutes may dip slightly, don't expect Ben Gordon to diminish the incredible influence that Reinking has had on this GB team.

    This is one veteran who has been on the journey to EuroBasket 2009 right from the start and will surely be there at the finish.
    http://www.fibaeurope.com/coid_aZ0iG...frontpage.html

    Tapiro retired some days ago right?
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    Quote Originally Posted by rikhardur View Post
    http://www.fibaeurope.com/coid_az0ig...frontpage.html

    tapiro retired some days ago right?
    yeah rik tapiro retired from the nt... He said he is too old and tired(i think he still has a lot to offer) and want to rest...

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    Senior Member HIGHLANDER's Avatar
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    I played against Reinking quite a few times back in the day when he played for Sheffield Sharks, one of the most difficult players i played against.
    He had that step back elevating jump shot. No matter how close you stayed to him he always seemed to get the shot off.
    Anyway jeez, i never new he was 35!

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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    Nilsen: Doing The Little Things

    You step out onto the court as focused as you could expect amidst a barrage of noise reverberating around an excited Arena. You can still hear the words of the coach ringing in your ears and you are wiping the sweat from your brow as your brain processes the multiple options and scenarios that are about to follow.

    It is the dying seconds of the contest and you are chosen to execute the final possession of the game. If you succeed, you overturn the one point deficit and get the all important win that could stop your team going home early. It might even decide the colour of the medal that could hang around your neck.

    A good chunk of the entire nation is watching back home and on the edge of their seats with their nails already bitten and chewed as far as is humanly possible. The hopes of an entire nation are resting on your shoulders but you feel confident, success is within striking distance.

    However what you don't realise is that bounding onto court from the opposing bench is a player who is equally focused.

    They are confident that they can play the defence that will shatter your dreams, crush the hopes of your nation and kick you all the way back to the locker room as you hold your head in a towel to hide the tears.

    But just who are these players that can really make the difference at Eurobasket 2009 by coming up with the big steals, blocks, rebounds and intangibles to deny their opponents glory?

    Well, there are a few to choose from. Plenty of players who can make the big defensive plays either down the stretch or just generally through a game to help their respective teams achieve their dreams. Here is a selection of just some of the players to keep an eye on in Poland when their team isn't in possession of the ball.

    Dimitris Diamantidis, Greece

    When a player is nicknamed ‘Spiderman' you get an instant feeling for his strengths. When he wins a fifth successive Euroleague defender of the year trophy, your initial thoughts are given a resounding endorsement.

    Yes, if you are talking about defence in a European context, the name of the Dimitris Diamantidis passes your lips without hesitation. The Panathinaikos star is capable of consistently having a bigger defensive impact on games than just about any other player.

    His long arms, sleight of hand, incredible quickness, incredible drive and focus (both mentally and physically) make him the defensive kingpin of European basketball.

    As with any player who masters a particular aspect of his trade, determination and hard work compliments the technical skill. Diamintidis simply has an insatiable appetite for stops, something that any coach at EuroBasket would love to be able to harness.

    If you ever need a player to slam the door so brutally closed in the face of opponent that it leaves the actual door number imprinted on their forehead then he is definitely your man.

    Whether it is steals, blocks, rebounds or just turning himself into the kind of human rash that drives an opponent to distraction and leaves him itching into next week, just leave it to the man whose both names quite aptly begin with ‘D'.

    Ibrahim Jaaber, Bulgaria

    While everyone quite rightly focuses on the firepower that the playmaker will have to provide to give Bulgaria any chance of progressing beyond the group stages, it can be easy to forget that the guard is a superb defensive player.

    He is about as aggressive as you can get on the defensive end with lightening quick hands, good balance and with a love of steals. It is those kind of traits that in tandem with his scoring ability apparently have Greek giants Olympiakos preparing to swoop and test the resolve of Roma as rumours surface that they could look to Jaaber to help challenge arch rivals Panathinaikos next season.

    What will be fascinating at Eurobasket will be seeing whether Jaaber will be able to maintain his intensity at both ends against a better calibre of opposition. He is likely to be over worked on offence and he will really have to excel on defence as well which places a big emphasis on how the Coach handles him.

    Of course luckily for fans of Bulgaria, they have one of the most experienced in Pini Gershon.

    Ricky Rubio, Spain

    Well I had to throw this one into the mix didn't I? It is a great debate. When it comes to the weaknesses of the ‘Boy Wonder,' we could probably all agree on the lack of a consistent outside shot. In fact you probably wouldn't even get a murmur of dissent from the player himself on that one.

    Defensively it is a bit more debateable, not exactly a minefield but there are some, perhaps a minority, that still claim Rubio might not have the lateral quickness at the highest level and particularly for the NBA.

    I am one of those who oppose that view since at his still tender age, Rubio can seemingly bully his counterparts by maximising his tremendous length, big hands and superb reflexes to intercept or deny passes and strip opponents.

    What has also been a regular feature of his career to date has been a clear knack of always being within touching distance of loose balls and a sense of where the hustle hot spots are on the floor - even if that involves getting under the hoop on defence at times.

    He is crashing the boards a lot more nowadays and the moments when he loses concentration and backs off opposing guards are becoming rarer with every game.

    Having said that, he is still to truly prove he has what it takes at this level but when he pulled on the National team vest at the Olympics, it just whetted our appetite for more and you know this is only a matter of time.

    Todor Gecevski, FYR of Macedonia

    While the exuberance of youth might be a positive from an intensity and energy perspective, it can sometimes also transcend into a moment of frustrating naivety.

    They say there is no substitute for experience and the defensive importance of a real warrior like Gecevski should not be overlooked. Now in the twilight of his career, he has shown over years for both club and country that as a leader of both respective teams he can lead any rearguard action.

    Inspirational and adored in both Zadar and Skopje, the centre will have a huge role to play in steadying FYR of Macedonia when they are on the ropes during games and threatening to implode. He is the man to pick them up off the floor defensively when they need it to drag them back into any game.

    Sergi Vidal, Spain

    Whilst a big question mark hangs over his actual ability to get back into the National Team, there is no question whatsoever that when it comes to defence, there are few better options for Spain than Vidal. After one of his best ever seasons, he is at the peak of his powers and remains a huge favourite in Vitoria.

    Tau coach Dusko Ivanovic doesn't mess around when it comes to defence. He regularly makes substitutions multiple times down the stretch, alternating Vidal on defence with the likes of Igor Rakocevic on offence. Let's face it, ‘Rako' is not the greatest on defence but is still no mug.

    Competition is obviously fierce and he may miss out. However if he does book a ticket to Warsaw, then he could yet prove to be a real bonus for the Spanish.

    It is an intriguing situation and without players like Jimenez and also possibly Rodriguez and Mumbru who have struggled with form and fitness, he could yet sneak into the selection process as he is capable of offering the kind of defensive intangibles that any tournament winners need.

    Kerem Gonlum, Turkey

    Vastly underrated but that is also the beauty of having a player like Gonlum. For opposing coaches at EuroBasket it is difficult to limit the effectiveness of a forward that more regularly than not is simply in the right place at the right time and quietly but effectively influencing the game.

    That is a knack that perhaps you can't teach and as he is a player that got into the game late, it probably is even more accurate than it might sound.

    Gonlum is the unsung hero who will operates in the shadows of bigger names and yet does the necessary dirty work to come up with the rebounds and steals that his team-mates, the coaching staff and basketball purists all appreciate.

    Size, strength, tenacity and great anticipation all come together to form a defensive efficiency that you just have to love.
    http://www.fibaeurope.com/coid_7x5op...frontpage.html
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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    POL - Polish break World Record in dribbling - over 30.000 fans on the streets

    POLAND (2009 EuroBasket) - Three months before the tournament's tip-off EuroBasket 2009 in Poland has already started breaking records.

    On Wednesday 17 June, 31,004 young people and celebrities gathered in the seven cities of EuroBasket 2009 - Katowice, Łodz, Bydgoszcz, Gdańsk, Poznan, Wroclaw and Warsaw - to break the Guinness Record for the largest number of people bouncing a basketball simultaneously for five minutes.

    The official number will only be confirmed on 18 June but the organizers say they have nothing to fear as the previous mark, communicated to them by officials at Guinness World Records was 5,000.

    Vice-Premier Grzegorz Schetyna, the Minister of Sport and Tourism Mirosław Drzewiecki, Polish Basketball Federation President Roman Ludwiczuk, FIBA Europe Secretary General Nar Zanolin and a number of Polish celebrities took part in the event which was broadcast live by EuroBasket 2009 host broadcaster TVP.

    Poland national team members Łukasz Koszarek and Krzysztof Szubarga, and Polish basketball legend Maciej Zieliński, who was at hand in Wrocław, gave crash courses in ball-handling to participants.

    "This was a superb, well organized occasion; I am sure it will help bring basketball and EuroBasket 2009 to the top of the scale of popularity in Poland," commented FIBA Europe Secretary General Nar Zanolin, who witnessed the event in Warsaw.

    All participants received a certificate of participation in the event and the basketball they used to break the record.

    "I hope that today's effort will help promote basketball in the country. Every child which received the ball as a token of appreciation can maybe use it to learn how to play basketball," said Roman Ludwiczuk.

    The event was staged by the Federation and the Local Organising Committee of EuroBasket 2009 in association with the seven cities' local Organising Committees and is part of the promotional activities linked to Eurobasket 2009, which will take place September 7-20 this year.
    http://www.fiba.com/pages/eng/fc/new...0596/arti.html
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    Senior Member Khalid80's Avatar
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    That's a good strategy to cause an earthquake

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    You can see photos from all cities here - http://www.pzkosz.pl/?p=akt&id=1173

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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    Nilsen: Great Expectations

    A devastating injury blow, a poor decision by a match official in crunch time, fantastic play by an opponent or dealing with expectation will all have one thing in common before and during EuroBasket 2009 - there is nothing much a national federation, the coaching staff or the players can do about any of them.

    If a star player goes down injured, you are left to shrug your shoulders and reflect on rotten luck. In the case of a referees blunder, you inevitably rant for a bit and then eventually reluctantly accept that referees make mistakes too - a bit like calling the wrong play or a missed lay-up.

    You might execute your defence perfectly but the star of the opposing team just comes up with a breathtaking and unstoppable play to win the game. Much as it pains you, there is nothing more you could have done.

    So, that leaves one of the biggest factors ahead of and during any major tournament - dealing with expectation levels.

    Sometimes players tell me during interviews that it is an integral part of being at the top level in any sport. They underline that pressure and expectation are things they can shrug off relatively easily - I am not always convinced by this.

    After all, plenty of great teams have buckled spectacularly under the dreaded weight of expectation during tournaments - and not just in basketball.

    It can be like a runaway train in the build up with no amount of sound bites or underplaying the situation ever truly lightening the load.

    On the flip side, it is wonderful how so many underdogs can flourish and thrive without being shackled by expectation. It must be nice to just run onto the floor to have fun, enjoy it knowing that in rather crude terms, ‘anything is a bonus.'

    EuroBasket 2009 is likely to be no different with teams finding themselves at both ends of the expectation spectrum. For each individual national team it is of course hugely subjective.

    Nevertheless, with three months to go, I just couldn't resist taking into account what I have heard from players, coaches and fans and then having a stab at interpreting this and placing each team into the following categories of expectation levels. I look forward to hearing from you as to where you think I have went right and wrong while it will be interesting to see how expectation shifts between now and tip-off as players come and go.

    Great Expectations

    Spain


    With or without Pau, gold is the only colour for an excited nation merrily focusing on talent levels and not the appointment of a new coach, whether he will have chemistry with his players, the loss of important glue on and off the court in Carlos Jiminez, the draft distraction for Rubio and the injury to the talented Calderon. Making up for Madrid 2007 is the expectation. Favourites and stacked with talent or not, it is easier said than done.

    Greece

    A couple of domestic teams in the Euroleague Final Four and Greek basketball is seemingly on an upward curve. With a new national team coach at the helm and many key players coming off a good year, it seems to me that EuroBasket expectation is not just sky high but in danger of going into outer space - and not for the first time. However injury concerns over the likes of defensive diamond Diamantidis could prove telling and a little more balance and perspective may be required.

    Slovenia

    Talk of a Slovenian ‘Dream Team' has been on the lips of many with Coach Zdovc also pretty bullish. A hugely talented team, but we all know that dreams can quickly turn to nightmares. With Becirovic struggling, any other high profile stars go down and current expectations will quickly seem excessive. Many people are talking of them as realistic medallists but with such a tough opening group, that gushing confidence appears to be pretty brave.

    Great Britain

    EuroBasket is very much virgin territory and maybe they should fall into the ‘expect the unexpected' bracket. However I do sense that a first ever ‘feel good factor' could be contributing towards an unrealistic expectation. NBA quality and Euroleague experience is great but without any EuroBasket history it doesn't always mean success at this next level. Having unexpectedly sprinted during their marathon and impressive journey from Division B, they could find themselves doing things backwards and may end up crawling for a short time. Then again, they could keep sprinting (okay....maybe they are in the wrong category).

    Beautifully Balanced

    Croatia


    Perhaps the most consistent nation when it comes to expectation. The team doesn't have the same NBA contingent of others but has been efficient in most things it has done, qualifying for major tournaments on a consistent basis and generally competing. Slightly hamstrung by having to live up to the great names of the past but overall there has been little of any note to greatly swing expectation towards either end of the spectrum. Expectations appear impressively balanced - much like the team itself and the system Coach Repisa employs.

    Serbia

    The golden era is but a distant memory and after poor displays in 2005 and 2007, Serbian basketball is coming to terms with the need to re-build. When you read down the list of stellar names who will be absent (again), holding onto former glories and setting levels of expectation in accordance with the halcyon days of yesteryear is no longer an option. Expectations now seem more realistic having been slightly re-adjusted after those successive Eurobasket failures.

    Latvia

    Biedrins and Co squeezed into the tournament and even with key players like Blums and Valters enjoying impressive rookie seasons in the ACB, Latvian expectation hasn't been raised and appears to be the same as it was when they originally booked their place.

    Lithuania

    I was tempted to put this basketball obsessed nation into the category of ‘Great Expectations' but perhaps some high profile retirements and absentees have just taken the edge off expectation levels enough to balance matters. They still have a fantastic amount of depth, got close in the Olympics and will do so again. You sense expectation matches the reality of their ambitions.

    Falling Expectations

    Russia


    With a few clubs in the Russian Superleague struggling off the court, JR Holden stepping down, Coach Blatt having been blanked by the potentially naturalised Travis Hansen and now Kirilenko expressing doubts about his availability, maybe the ambitions of the defending champions are dwindling with each week that passes. They still have huge talents but the chill wind of expectation previously howling in from Moscow is now more akin to a gentle breeze. Even if the bookmakers don't seem to have realised yet.

    Germany

    With or without Nowitzki, it seems there is an acceptance of the need to re-build an ageing team and with that comes the need for a re-alignment of expectation. Inevitably it will be lower than in previous years.

    Israel

    A traumatic qualifying campaign that came within a whisker of being a complete disaster combined with the recent retirement of veteran rock Meir Tapiro haven't exactly given reasons to expect a great deal in 2009. A bit like a ‘Nowitzki-less' Germany, Israel have a new generation to bring through and a new identity to mould.

    Expect The Unexpected

    FYR of Macedonia


    Winning their qualifying group and making a belated return ten years after their first appearance they could be dark horses - or maybe not. But seriously, if star forward Jeremiah Massey truly doesn't know what kind of ambitions the team should have, how can I or anybody else?

    Bulgaria

    The one team with a number of clichés they can cling to. Underdogs, David and Goliath, nothing to lose - the list is endless. So why not put them in ‘perfectly balanced' category? Well because they edged out Italy in qualifying and in Ibby Jaaber have a EuroBasket ‘X Factor' that could help prove a few people wrong. Maybe being rank outsiders but this isn't how the thought process is working in Sofia.

    Turkey

    Impressive in qualifying, ‘Hedo' had made it to the NBA Finals, Ilyasova is looking the real deal and it becomes easy to bump this nation up to the category of great expectations. However, how can you expect an accurate measurement of expectation when the players themselves can't even guarantee which team will show up? Just look at their last EuroBasket performances against their World Championship display. What should we expect from Turkey? Flip a coin and take a guess.

    Poland

    The traditional burden of being an expectant host nation doesn't quite sit right with Poland. The lack of any major scalps on the court after not having had to qualify means most people are fumbling in the dark when it comes to even setting any kind of level of expectation. They could be surprisingly brilliant or toe curlingly awful. For the sake of the tournament, I hope it isn't the latter.
    http://www.fibaeurope.com/coid_3DXOl...leMode_on.html
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    Great Britain stands higher than Lithuania, Croatia, Turkey? It seems that the guy knows few names like Biedrins and guys from NBA. I disagree with the list, though it's pretty interesting. Maybe we should start "expectations" thread?
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    Talking Clarification

    Hi there

    I think you misunderstand the article.

    The expectation levels are in relation to each individual country , not against each other in a tournament ranking sense

    in otherwords the expectation of Great Britian is big within the UK but that is not the reality of the situation in the tournament, that is the point I was making

    There is no way GB stands above Croatia, Turkey etc... that is not what the article is saying....

    as for knowing about Biedrins and NBA players... I hopefully know a little more than that when it comes to Latvia for example - having watched the likes of Blums and Valters play over 20 times this season

    Cheers

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Nilsen View Post
    Hi there

    I think you misunderstand the article.

    The expectation levels are in relation to each individual country , not against each other in a tournament ranking sense

    in otherwords the expectation of Great Britian is big within the UK but that is not the reality of the situation in the tournament, that is the point I was making

    There is no way GB stands above Croatia, Turkey etc... that is not what the article is saying....

    as for knowing about Biedrins and NBA players... I hopefully know a little more than that when it comes to Latvia for example - having watched the likes of Blums and Valters play over 20 times this season

    Cheers
    Thanks for clarification, I got your point now! I have a better understanding of your idea and that only makes the topic more interesting. Welcome to the forum!
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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    Stick around Paul
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    "Turkey

    Impressive in qualifying, ‘Hedo' had made it to the NBA Finals, Ilyasova is looking the real deal and it becomes easy to bump this nation up to the category of great expectations. However, how can you expect an accurate measurement of expectation when the players themselves can't even guarantee which team will show up? Just look at their last EuroBasket performances against their World Championship display. What should we expect from Turkey? Flip a coin and take a guess."

    Hah hah hah, i just saw the article and that's exactly what we are... Of course Tanjevic plays big role in it.

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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    Nilsen: Potential Young Stars - Part 1

    My friend sat shaking his head last week and gleefully began to pull apart my column piece before it had even been written - most people would at least have the decency to wait until it is actually published. He shook his head and started laughing, explaining smugly, "Ricky Rubio... now that's a genuinely young player."

    He didn't seem to think that setting the criteria at 23 or under for a feature on the potential young stars of Eurobasket 2009 was reasonable. He seemed to think this was a little high although I did point out that there is only one Ricky Rubio and it might be unfair to judge everyone else by the standards of the anticipated EuroBasket Golden Boy.

    In spite of his protestations, I have stuck to my guns with this one although believe me, it wasn't easy. My friend did seem to delight in pointing out a recent feature I did on the potential veteran stars of the tournament, gleefully reminding me that Meir Tapiro of Israel announced his retirement within days of it being published. Cue my friend telling me - "So you see, what do you actually know?"

    I suppose he had a point with that one. I am hoping these guys last a little longer on the EuroBasket 2009 radar.

    In the case of younger players heading to Poland, I don't think it is rocket science to state that at this most senior level of the game it is the exception rather than the rule when players under 20 have a significant impact on such a prestigious and major tournament. Going back a whole decade I am mindful (after being reminded) that players such as Sani Becirovic churned out decent minutes for Slovenia as a teenager and it will be interesting to keep an eye on whether anyone other than Ricky can manage this too.

    I feel that in terms of young talent realistically hoping to make a big impression, most of the impact will be made firmly in the 20-23 year old category. For example, look no further than the absolutely packed amount of talent in a young and hungry Serbia team. I find it astonishing trawling through the potential rosters that will line up later this year that coach Ivkovic probably has as many young players in his team that warrant a place in this feature about potential young stars than the rest of the teams put together!

    With Serbian teams like Partizan Belgrade and FMP keeping the production line running and handing young guys their opportunity to play in top competitions such as EuroCup and Euroleague at such tender ages, it is tempting to classify the glittering array of influential Serbian players as being nothing like young players. In terms of their playing history, many already with remarkable numbers and minutes you would probably be right - that doesn't change their date of birth in their passport though.

    Those of you who prefer to be cynical (a bit like my friend) might cruelly point to a continual lack of appearances by senior Serbian players as to why so many youngsters are given their chance (re-enforced recently by Igor Rakocevic casting doubts over his return to action ) but in spite of this, there seems no better place to start a round-up than the team who will be more reliant on young players than any other.

    Milenko Tepic, Serbia

    The combo guard will be hoping to have more of an impact than he did at the last EuroBasket tournament when he played only 14 minutes without making any kind of impression. Won European gold with the Serbian U20 team in 2006 and 2007 and has since developed into a key member of Partizan's team at Euroleague level. A favourite of Ivkovic, Tepic played more minutes than any other player during qualifying and harnessed his wide range of skills to good effect. A solid shooter and passer, he is consistent for both club and country with his numbers reflecting this fact. A good decision maker and unlike others, doesn't always jack up threes unless he is well set. He is also a smart player at the defensive end - something recognised by Euroleague champions Panathinaikos who have signed him on a three year deal. Only a slight lack of that extra speed when handling the ball is a weak point. Pivotal cog in the Serbian machine.

    Uros Tripkovic, Serbia

    Could be heading for a big move to the ACB with Spanish regular season and Copa Del Rey champions TAU Ceramica with other Euroleague clubs hot on his trail. Tripkovic hails from the same birthplace as legendary Serbian shooters such as Stojakovic, Gurovic and Beric, he has perhaps suffered from the weight of expectation placed around his neck when he first burst onto the scene. Some claim he has yet to truly realise his potential and has a tendency to take too many off balance and impossible looking shots. Despite this, he remains a big danger and a player who could explode at just the right time for Serbia. He showed during qualification and during last season in Euroleague across 18 games for Partizan that he can be lethal from the arc and has to be considered as one of the best shooters heading to Poland. Defensively he could be better but remains a smart enough player to shine if he improves that shot selection.

    Novica Velickovic, Serbia

    It could be argued that there are few greater endorsements in European basketball than a legendary coach such as Ettore Messina signing you to spearhead a revolution at a giant club and institution such as Real Madrid. Velickovic has certainly made colossal strides in improving his game lately, his progress underlined when he scooped this years Euroleague Rising Star award turning the heads of eager suitors towards Belgrade. He was a major pulse within a talented Partizan team and some would say even the leader at just 22 years old. He has turned from a raw inside banger who could make a shot into a more versatile and well rounded forward who can do it all. Not the most athletic but smart and can grab game winning steals as well as making his team-mates better with his work off the ball. Only a lack of natural athleticism and worries he could end up being an NBA tweener in the future go against this hugely talented forward excelling in the best league in Europe for years to come. Will be instrumental and a major weapon in the Serbian team.

    Stefan Markovic, Serbia

    A surprise inclusion in the 2007 tournament at the age of 19, he has continued his excellent progression and has made the most of his impressive athleticism and size at the point. Has led Hemofarm to the semi-finals of the Final Eight in EuroCup and compared to rivals for the position has shown he can really look after the ball, run a team and show maturity beyond his years. Markovic can play solid defence, is brave and refuses to be intimidated by opponents. Considered a ‘sleeper' in 2008 has catapulted himself into the limelight with his European performances. A talent that is definitely getting better with every minute on court and could make a big impression if coach Ivkovic puts his faith in him. Yes, it is a big if, but many players have broken through in major tournaments. We watch with interest.

    Milos Teodosic, Serbia

    An interesting player that is likely to establish him as a big player in Europe over time. Has handled the pressure of being a young player at an institution like Olympiakos reasonably well though is rumoured to be about to be sent out on loan next year after his poor start relegating him to the bench. A great passer with good vision who can slice to the hoop, has the ability to develop into a playmaker but currently does not have the presence or leadership needed at the top level. Not the most gifted defensively and his outside shooting is so erratic that for long periods it can be either sensational or atrocious but rarely in between. Former U20 European Championship MVP and showed in EuroBasket 2007 he can produce at this senior level. A good chance to underline his talent and show why he went to Greece in the first place.

    In Part 2 find out which other potential young stars will be lining up at EuroBasket 2009.
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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    Nilsen: Potential Young Stars Part II

    EuroBasket 2009 will be another FIBA tournament blessed with a selection of hungry young players all eagerly looking to enhance their burgeoning reputations.

    While teams like Serbia have based the bulk of their squad around a hungry and youthful core, there are plenty of other individual players on other rosters also looking to shine for their respective National teams.

    Here's a selection of players to keep your eye on when we tip off in September.

    Joel Freeland, Great Britain

    Plucked from relative obscurity by Portland Trailblazers three years ago, Freeland has exploded in the past 12 months. He had an incredible qualifying tournament last summer and was arguably the best player in a Great Britain vest bar the inspirational Deng. He then took that red-hot form into the Spanish league where he has had a terrific breakthrough season with Gran Canaria, something underlined by his top five finish in voting for the ACB ‘Revelation of the Year' award. While he will have fierce competition in Poland for the 5 spot alongside Euroleague veterans like Robert Archibald and Andy Betts who missed most of qualifying, he will relish that challenge. He suddenly has a swagger in his stride stemming from a new found confidence - something previously absent when he was far too introverted on the court. Freeland can be particularly explosive for a center, he has quick feet, is a great offensive rebounder and is getting stronger and smarter with every game he plays. He maybe just needs to look after the ball a little better and avoid picking up cheap fouls to make further improvements. He is a great character and definitely a big talent who is being chased by top clubs across Europe and rumoured to be heading for Malaga and Unicaja if he doesn't stay in Gran Canaria. Will definitely be a player to watch in Warsaw when the Group stage gets underway.

    Ante Tomic, Croatia

    Tomic is now beginning to realise his potential and will head into the tournament off the back of a hugely impressive year, particularly in the Adriatic league. Averaged around the 15 point mark in all three competitions he played in and in terms of production, he has announced his arrival and made people sit up and take notice. He has also begun to justify why Utah Jazz drafted him in 2008. He has enjoyed a terrific spell of form in the Mediterranean Games, posting big numbers including a double-double in the gold medal game over the weekend which is likely to now land him a place on a competitive Croatian EuroBasket final 12. While it is not guaranteed he will make it, he has made it difficult for Repesa to leave him out and if he does get the nod, he could definitely make a big impression. He is very much the hungry young guy behind the injury prone and more experienced Kasun and Vujcic, and is reportedly being chased by Pamesa Valencia (his preferred destination apparently) and Maccabi Tel-Aviv which suggests his role and profile in the game could be about to explode further. Having always been on the radar of the big teams on both sides of the Atlantic because of his status as one of the most promising players of his age, Poland could be a chance for him to further cement his reputation although there is a chance he might not quite be ready at this level just yet. Runs the floor well despite his size and has some good moves in the low post. Seems to be adding much needed aggression to his game and he will need it. If he gets his ticket from Coach Repesa then enjoy the show.

    Victor Claver, Spain

    After a season blighted by a serious injury, the high flying Claver looked like he would struggle to make the final cut for Poland in an intensely competitive Spanish squad currently pencilled in as favourites for the gold medal. Even when he came back to the court in the last few months of the season for Pamesa Valencia having recovered from his broken leg, he was not been able to re-produce his pre-injury form. Testament to his potential and the trust that people have in his ability is that he was subsequently drafted at number 22 in the first round by Portland Trailblazers. It was a decision that caused a certain degree of uproar on both sides of the Pond and was undeniably one of the most contentious of all the picks. Claver is the future of the Spanish team in the 3 to 4 spot where Coach Scariolo has admitted the team is short of depth. He is someone that plays his game above the rim and the numerous online compilations of dunks by the versatile and athletic 20 year old is testament to the thrills and spills he can provide in the tournament. He has a super skills set and while the fevered analysis of his shock first round draft rumbles on across both sides of the Atlantic, he will probably keep flying high for Pamesa Valencia (as he isn't expected to play in the NBA any time soon) and could show the doubters at EuroBasket just why Portland snapped him up. Oh and as one wag suggested, the Trailblazers surely aren't just looking for a replacement in the NBA dunk contest for the supposedly unhappy Rudy Fernandez who could be on his way (although Turkoglu and a late change to the Raptors might ease that situation).

    Ogus Savas, Turkey

    Unlike most players listed, Savas is not exactly the silky skilled or high flying forward that you would necessarily pay good money to watch. He is however a hugely effective young player and one that will no doubt provide a significant contribution to a talented if unpredictable Turkish team. Right from the outset it is worth pointing out that because of his bulk and startling lack of an athletic physique, he often struggles to rebound effectively and can be caught flat footed on defence, both of which are obviously significant flaws. However when it comes to production at the offensive end, he is generally excellent and has shown this both in Euroleague and the Turkish League for Fenerbahce Ulker last season. This also followed a successful qualifying campaign for the National team last summer, his 9.7 points per game helping Turkey to remain unbeaten in an impressive spell. Savas is an intelligent player who utilises every last drop of that basketball IQ and as a result, the giant center could prove difficult to ignore in Poland - quite literally!

    Omri Casspi, Israel

    It has been a historic week for Casspi and Israeli basketball after the forward became the first player from Israel to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft after he was picked in the 23 spot by the Kings. The smart money is now firmly on Casspi playing for Sacramento sooner rather than later and becoming the first ever Israel born player to play in the big league. However every silver lining has a cloud and some fear this turn of events and historical landmark could adversely affect his commitment to the National team programme. It now remains to be seen whether he will now line up in Poland, the odds currently against this but there remains hope. The interest in his draft has been huge in his homeland with Channel 5 in Israel covering the draft pick live with the focus firmly on the Maccabi star who averaged over 12 points per game last season. At just 20 years old, Casspi is now primed to be the biggest star of Israeli basketball and indeed Israeli sport. His influence at Eurobasket could be huge and particularly with Israel one of the underdogs and the federation and coaching staff looking in part to re-build a new team around the likes of Casspi. Now it is simply down to his commitment to his country and whether he can stand up to the rigours of any pressure from over the Atlantic not to play. If he does pull on an Israeli vest, watch out for his all round skills but particularly his ball handling, athletic ability and great physical attributes.

    Ricky Rubio, Spain

    It's pretty hard to write anything new about Rubio as he is one of the most talked about players on the planet and most definitely the most talked about young player in the game. Suffice to say, this EuroBasket tournament is his first proper opportunity to actually show his true capabilities at National team level. He got his feet well and truly wet at the Olympics last summer but with no Calderon on board this time and with backcourt challengers Lopez and Cabezas hardly enjoying stellar seasons, all eyes will be firmly on the recent NBA draft pick to see if he lives up to his reputation. Believe the hype.

    Andris Biedrins, Latvia

    Well I had to leave the best until last and perhaps shoot myself in the foot by listing the 23 year old NBA star. Including the irrepressible Biedrins who is simply a monster in a Latvia vest adds credence to my friends theory that 23 years or below was too high for a feature on ‘young players'. However despite is impressive CV in the NBA with Golden State, this particular Warrior's passport has him down as a young player - there seems to be no arguing with his date of birth. Biedrins is the heartbeat of the Latvia team and a talismanic figure in the same way that Luol Deng is with Great Britain or Dirk Nowitzki has been with Germany. He may still be a young in my book but he was the most dominant player during the entire Eurobasket qualifying campaign last summer. Prolific in most categories, the forward is already a legend in his homeland and ‘Beans' is a favourite in California too. When it comes to NBA stars of Eurobasket 2009, he is often talked about somewhere near to last, naturally overshadowed by the likes of a certain Gasol pairing. However the truth of the matter is that few players will have as much impact on their National team than Biedrins.
    http://www.fibaeurope.com/coid_Esk0E...frontpage.html
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    Nilsen: Deng, Biedrins Examples Of Impact Players

    I have to admit to having been left bemused by the thankfully now resolved cliffhanger otherwise known as ‘Pau Gasol and Poland'. The Spanish nation really love a bit of gossip and soap opera but the ‘will he, won't he?' saga was in danger of becoming tiresome.


    Certainly not because of the NBA play-off champion himself, nor those in Iberia eagerly anticipating the decision. Simply because I couldn't help wondering amidst all of the fuss how much it actually mattered. For the sake of the tournament itself, I guess it is hugely significant. Pau heading to Poland means more exposure at so many levels.

    However even with another NBA star in Jose Calderon withdrawing due to an injury, it always felt to me that whether Pau played or not, the Spanish team has so much quality at its disposal that a ‘no gracias' from Pau would not have exactly spelled disaster.

    Sergio Scariolo has the luxury of another member of the Gasol family, the MVP of the Spanish league in Felipe Reyes and someone like Barcelona center Fran Vazquez to call on - I am sure if fate had decided Pau wasn't going, Vazquez might have actually made himself available (he says with tongue in cheek). Consequently sympathy for those tortured Spanish supporters did fade a little during this epic saga!

    Spare a thought for those National teams who don't have the same kind of calibre and depth, teams with a ‘marquee player' whom if they decide to ‘rest' or get injured, mean the chances of the side progressing in the tournament diminish drastically.

    Yes, I have been choking back the EuroBasket tears at the prospect of Luol Deng being sidelined. While British basketball fans engage in every kind of superstition imaginable to summon luck in the faint hope that Deng can still make it, I didn't. This potential disaster just got me thinking.

    Which teams at Eurobasket 2009 are most reliant one player and would suffer a mini-disaster if they didn't have him on court? It was an intriguing notion and while sadly, I kind of knew Deng would be high on the list, I felt it deserved a bit of non-scientific exploration.

    My first finding (and a pretty obvious one) is that all of the top rated teams heading into EuroBasket 2009 could just about cope with the loss of any individual player without it significantly changing their prospects. This was the easy part. I found that there were 6 teams who would not be sunk, merely weakened. Those teams were Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. For me, they either have too much quality and depth (Lithuania) or, they don't have any one stand out star in the first place (Croatia).

    I then had a bunch of teams heading for Eurobasket 2009 such as Israel, Turkey, FYR of Macedonia and hosts Poland that I could genuinely not fathom. Perhaps these teams just don't have that one big star and neither do they have the quality of those teams listed above to cope with a major injury. The closest I got was thinking that Hedo Turkoglu getting injured for example could really affect Turkey but then they are a team with a history of so many personalities and surprises that it didn't convince me.

    I therefore ended up with a list of five EuroBasket teams who I consider to be significantly reliant upon one individual player and significantly, should that player in question miss the competition, the entire outlook for the tournament would be turned on its head. I guess it also potentially highlighted the five most influential players heading for Poland.

    1. Latvia - Biedrins

    Latvia have a really settled team and some great players supporting the Golden State Warriors star. Valters has been snapped up by DKV Joventut after a stellar year, Blums has shined with Bilbao while Berzins has made it an ACB trio after signing for Fuenlabrada next year. Janicenoks is also hugely underrated but Biedrins showed during qualifying that he is a tower of strength and arguably the biggest marquee player out there. Top scorer, top rebounder and all round go-to-guy. Don't even think about him wearing civilian clothes in September - a truly nightmare scenario for this nation.

    2. Great Britain - Deng

    The influence Deng has had on the game in the UK both on and off the court is immeasurable. His talent helped the meteoric rise of this fledgling basketball nation while his mere presence draws defenders and exposes the space for his team-mates to exploit. Without him, the team loses their heartbeat and inspiration. While Great Britain captain Andrew Sullivan put on a brave face last week, the fact is that with him, Great Britain can win a game and progress. Without him, an early trip home looks a nailed on certainty. You just can't replace Luol Deng.

    3. Germany - Nowitzki

    With so much debate raging in German basketball about an ageing team, the need for re-building, import player quotas in the domestic league and a perceived lack of talent to choose from - it isn't surprising that so much hinges on the uber-influential Mavericks player committing to his homeland once again. Someone said to me recently that without him, Germany will be relegated and can forget it. I didn't argue. So much rests on the shoulders of this legend that his possible EuroBasket sabbatical means some serious issues suddenly coming home to roost for this National team.

    4. Bulgaria - Jaaber

    Hugely instrumental in qualifying, his energy and Euroleague experience are vital but not as much as his defence. Jaaber has quickness and defensive qualities that at this level could keep Bulgaria competitive while he is also the top scorer. Without him, even the hugely experienced Pini Gershon couldn't find a way of plugging that gap!

    5.Russia - Kirilenko

    While he was named in the Russia squad last week (maybe in hope rather than expectation) it looks like Kirilenko might actually miss EuroBasket 2009 and that would be a hammer blow to Russia. He might not have had the greatest seasons in the NBA but without him, the defending champions lose a whole lot of experience and quality. You feel with him they have a faint hope of making the latter stages but without him, their hopes trickle away and fade to pretty much nothing.

    Hopefully the next time you are sat over some coffee with friends and looking forward to the big EuroBasket 2009 tip-off, this is a debate worth having. Just remember that for those of you who hail from either Latvia, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Germany or Russia - you might be better off putting that cup of coffee down and instead, saying a little prayer that your main guy makes it onto the floor this summer.
    http://www.fibaeurope.com/coid_rg1WZ...frontpage.html
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    Nilsen: Group A Cut And Dry?

    Whenever making predictions or previewing tournaments, you are always liable to make yourself look foolish as the many pundits who didn't even have Russia penciled in for a top eight spot at Eurobasket 2007 would no doubt testify.

    Starting a run of previews as we countdown the seven weeks until the big tip-off, you have to think that Poznan will see the most predictable outcomes and that Group A is, at least on paper, the most cut and dry of all of the groups.

    As we all know though, basketball isn't played on paper, it is played out on the floor and while the smart money is on Olympians Greece and Croatia finishing in the top two spots, both Israel and FYR of Macedonia will be looking to spring a surprise.

    In the first part of this Group A preview, we check in with Croatia and FYR of Macedonia.

    Croatia

    Don't be fooled by a lack of glittering NBA names on the roster. After successive sixth placed finishes at Eurobasket 2007 and the Olympic Games in Beijing, Croatia have raised the bar for themselves. With a system that suits the players and the expert hand of Jasmin Repesa at the helm, they have standards to maintain while dreams of a medal have a genuine chance of being fulfilled if luck is on their side.

    It is in the front-court where Croatia seem to be particularly strong with Vujcic and Kasun possibly back. This could be important as it gives them a big advantage in the Group stages over Israel, an edge over FYR of Macedonia and crucially helps them match up better than most teams with one of the front-runners in Greece.

    The influence of Roko Leni-Ukic on this Croatian team will be significant and if he can finally get his outside shot going then this could be a major difference between disappointment and a genuine shot at a medal.

    Their strength in many ways is that they don't have any real stellar names and will get things done as one unit and not rely on any individuals. This in itself is one reason for their consistency of late. A Luol Deng, Dirk Nowitzki or Ibby Jaaber goes stone cold or gets injured for their respective nations and a giant hole needs to be filled - this scenario barely exists with Croatia.

    In the cut and thrust of tournament basketball with the physical and mental demands, this is an advantage and dynamic often overlooked and why they might quietly and efficiently sneak up on the rails to make a play for the semi-finals.

    CROATIA

    Key player: Roko-Leni Ukic. NBA quality with a steady hand and important influence on this team

    Sleeper: Ante Tomic is preparing to make a name for himself on the International stage

    X-Factor: Mario Kasun. Will he go or not? Can he get over his injuries? If he does stay healthy, he could provide the extra muscle to help catapult Croatia onto the podium

    Weak points: No one true superstar who can be the go-to-guy in the potential medal games or bail them out during a bad game.

    Strong points: No true superstar also means that all of the eggs aren't in one basket. Team ethic is king in Croatia and the sum of the team is greater than all of its parts. On balance, that could give them the edge.

    Wish you were here: Incredibly there are no major players ‘resting' or seriously injured at present

    You probably didn't know: The American White House was partly built out of stone from the Croatian island of Brac

    Recent news: The Croatian second team won gold recently in the Mediterranean Games

    What fans should pack in their suitcase: An extra few Euros as there may be a real chance of celebrating a medal in Katowice.

    Movies and movie titles for Croatia: Sense and Sensibility or perhaps Serenity. Either titles would reflect this settled and practical basketball team who play within the confines of a nice system without the drama of question marks over key players in most other teams.

    Key to success: Coach Repesa and how he coaches his team. The tried and trusted system is in place but can he really get his players to jump up to that next level and into medal contention?

    In just five words: Continuity could deliver a medal

    Tournament prediction: 1-4 (if not then a World Championship place via 5,6 or even 7 if Turkey finish higher)

    FYR of Macedonia

    This passionate and energetic National team are determined to show they are the real deal although that will be tough. An exciting blend of youth and experience in the hands of an underrated coach could be the perfect recipe to spring a major surprise.

    Led by inspirational veteran Vrbica Stefanov who has chosen to proudly end his glittering career in a national vest, the team has a true heartbeat through which everything is likely to ebb and flow.

    Experienced top class warriors in the paint like Todor Gecevski and Pero Antik will line up alongside exciting young talents like Predrag Samardziski who could finally be ready to explode at this level and fulfil his massive talent after being very much handled with ‘kid gloves' during qualification.

    There is little doubt that in Jeremiah Massey, Coach Arsic has a high calibre player with experience at the very top level - something that will be invaluable to him. Indeed he could be the ‘X Factor' on which the success or otherwise of this team is based.

    The biggest blow to FYR of Macedonia however is the injury to the hugely experienced Vlado Ilievski which has ruled him out of the tournament - a real disappointment.

    It will be tough to progress past the group stages with one of the tournament favourites Greece likely to take one spot and that will be a tough opening game against their neighbours while Croatia, another near neighbour, will also be looking to impose their Olympic pedigree.

    If there is one particular rivalry that really whets the appetite and further ignites the passion of the players and fans it is with Israel. The rivalry has developed to such an extent that veteran playmaker Vrbica Stefanov, has
    previously described it as the "Israel syndrome".

    Both countries have quite a history on the court and know each other well since the Israelis delivered the knockout blow in the Additional Qualifying Round for EuroBasket 2007 while they also picked up a win against FYR of Macedonia in EuroBasket 1999.

    This tournament should hold no fear for this effervescent team. Progression past the group stages will be difficult but is nevertheless a genuine possibility if they can overcome Israel and they are certainly a team capable of springing a surprise - though the absence of the influential Ilievski could severely limit their chances.

    Key player - Vrbica Stefanov. The final stand of a Macedonian basketball legend.

    Sleeper - Predrag Samardziski. It's time for him to really make his mark at this level

    X Factor - Jeremiah Massey. His energy, vibrancy and athleticism is crucial. Has plenty to prove after a bumpy year at Real Madrid

    Weak points - If Stefanov isn't on court or doing the business, the back-court is weak now that Ilievski has been ruled out with injury. Not the best perimeter shooting team.

    Strong points - Experienced spine of the team. A hard-nosed front court. Good in transition and decent defensively with plenty of aggression helping rack up the steals.

    Wish you were here - Valdo Ilievski

    You probably didn't know - Nobel peace prize winner Mother Theresa was born in Skopje and you can now find a statue of her in the FYR of Macedonia capital

    Recent news - The team will play their first preparation game against Slovenia on 02 August

    What fans should pack in their suitcase - A tourist book of attractions in Poland as the basketball might be over in just three days

    Movies and Movie Titles for FYR of Macedonia - I am tempted to try and get away with ‘Vrbica Stefanov and the Last Crusade' as he is more than capable of filling in for Harrison Ford for one last hurrah but maybe without Iilievski, the most appropriate movie title is simply ‘As Good As It Gets' for these EuroBasket underdogs who probably won't progress

    Key to success - Self belief, being aggressive and getting in the faces of their opponents with a high tempo game. Can playmaker Stefanov turn it back on like a tap even though he has not played at a top club level all season?

    In just five words - The mission of their lives

    Tournament prediction - 13+
    http://www.fibaeurope.com/coid_vU9Sy...frontpage.html
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    These are some great articles Rik, keep 'em coming.

    Stuart

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    Quote Originally Posted by stuart View Post
    These are some great articles Rik, keep 'em coming.

    Stuart
    Thank Paul Nilsen
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    Nilsen: Group A, Part II

    Will events in Poznan really be as cut and dry as I made out in the first part of my EuroBasket 2009 preview?

    Keeping the spotlight firmly fixed on what still appears to be the most predictable part of the tournament, its time to complete the assessment of Group A and focus on the prospects of an under strength Greece and a quietly confident Israel.

    Greece

    Everything changes but nothing changes. A new coach, the absence of key players but as heavyweights of the European and indeed the world game, Greece will still have to operate under the weight of expectation and secure a podium finish in Poland.

    These are fascinating times for the Greek national team. Rated by the bookmakers as tournament front-runners and the side most likely to challenge Spain in the EuroBasket gold rush, some hard nosed basketball fans will feel this is a fanciful notion.

    While it seems that the bookmakers odds haven't taken into account the withdrawl of some pivotal players such as Papaloukas and Diamintidis in recent weeks, it's hard to ignore.

    Both are fundamental cornerstones of the team meaning that new coach Jonas Kazlauskas has significant gaps to have to fill. The decision of Papaloukas to rest has certainly paved the way for a real debate about the future of the Greek backcourt, albeit sooner than most had wished for.

    It is expected that Spanoulis might be handed the reigns but he can also play the two, so the sizeable responsibility could be given to the likes of Zsis - maybe a big gamble with medals on the line.

    While solving his immediate backcourt problem might seem to be the biggest worry for Kazlauskas, the main issue remains how he can impose his own ethos and philosophies on this makeshift team in such a short space of time.

    It took former coach Panagiotis Giannakis several years to gel this side together, achieve the required chemistry and maintain the reputation of Greece as a major power in world basketball.

    At least the new play-caller can find some comfort in the fact that while he might have lost some stellar backcourt players, he does at least have one of the strongest frontcourts in the tournament. Bouroussis and the young Koufos have class while even big ‘Sofo' could be back and hungry.

    Those big guys could help keep Greece remain in contention for the medals but it will be tough in the latter stages and you do have to wonder if gone are the days when you can grab a medal with only a handful of experienced and top drawer players. Put ‘Theo' and ‘DD' back onto this roster and a medal would be pretty much a no brainer.

    Key Man - Yiannis Bouroussis - A quality big man with NBA proficiency who utilises that monster frame to the max. His productivity and influence is unquestionable.

    Sleeper - At this level, new Panathinaikos recruit Nick Calathes remains a sleeper (even if it is not reflected in his high media profile and ability). Some key absences mean he will probably make it and any court time will make for fascinating viewing as he tries to transfer those College skills.

    X Factor - Vassillis Spanoulis is, at times, an extraordinary player. However, can the Euroleague Final Four MVP take his opportunity and add to his undisputable talent with the kind of leadership his country desperately needs from him?

    Weak Points - A backcourt without the leadership and vision of Papaloukas and the defence of Diamantidis for such a long time could spell trouble for Greece, especially down the tournament stretch. Their absence has also exposed a rare lack of depth on the roster while chemistry also raises a question mark.

    Strong Points - The front-court can be dominant. While there is not exactly a stunning array of athleticism and variation, the sheer size and weight of muscle, strength, power and experience means most opponents will simply struggle to match up. Despite key absences, they also have more quality on the roster than most.

    Wish You Were Here - Theo Papaloukas, Dimitris Diamintidis, Kostas Tsartsaris

    What fans should pack in their suitcase - An umbrella for when it is raining threes when those opponents who can't match up inside try to shoot down Greece from the perimeter

    Movies and Movie Titles for Greece - The ‘Usual Suspects' would be an apt title since irrespective of the build-up, the roster and situation, they are a nation always spoken about as potential winners. Taking into account expectation, Titanic also springs to mind and you wonder which rival could end up being the iceberg to sink Hreece and leave everyone shocked - surely not Israel or FYR of Macedonia?

    Key To Success
    - Whether Coach Kazlauskas can find the chemistry he needs and who he hands the baton of back-court responsibility to

    Tournament Prediction - 1-4

    In just five words - Key absences but same expectations

    Israel

    If there is one team who will count their EuroBasket blessings it has to be Israel who suffered a roller-coaster and at times, traumatic qualification process. At one point they looked as if they had blown it with a shocking three game losing streak but they squeezed through and ironically, despite this drama, the feeling is now one of a quiet confidence that they could yet surprise a few people.

    Coach Sherf has a core group of players in the likes of Yotam Halperin, Tal Burstein, Yaniv Green and Lior Eliyahu - all proven at the top European level and as with everything concerned with Israeli basketball, all very muich influenced in one way or another by the institution that is the world famous Maccabi Tel Aviv.

    Equally as important, these players can ensure Israel remain competitive not only in this tournament but also mark an intriguing and possibly exciting new era for this team. The recent World University Games highlighted the fact that Israel certainly have some good young players coming through and the players on the bench in Poland will confirm this and show that in years to come, Israel could have some real depth to call upon.

    Most Israeli fans have been excited for most of the year by the prospect of a really thrilling double act for the National team in Casspi and Eliyahu. This vibrant duo working in tandem to help transform Israel into a running, gunning, dunking and high-tempo team.

    However it now looks increasingly likely that this wish won't be realised. The excited celebrations of the hugely talented Casspi being drafted by Sacramento suddenly quelled with the realisation that while he might be about to become the first Israeli to play in the NBA, he is also likely to miss Eurobasket 2009.

    Whether that proves to be a devastating blow or merely a disappointment very much remains to be seen. Casspi is certainly an important and very talented player but being drafted doesn't mean he is a perfect player and that his absence blows Israel out of the water.

    Those running a more critical eye over Israel could easily point out that they are underdogs for a reason and that the bookmakers are rarely wrong. A more brutal assessment of their talents could list the overlooked yet critical departure of Meir Tapiro, some mediocre backcourt offence outside of Halperin and a critical lack of depth in the five spot.

    With that in mind, it is difficult to truly pinpoint the realistic ambitions of Israel. The likelihood is that they can overcome FYR of Macedonia but will find it tough going, especially inside against Greece and Croatia. Simply emerging from Group A and embarking on a new era (even without Casspi) is what Eurobasket 2009 will be about for this national team.

    Key Man - Yotam Halperin is a class act and while there is debate whether he is the man to run the point at this level, he is a devastating shooter and the main offensive weapon for Israel. With Tapiro retiring he also needs to show even more leadership on court.

    Sleeper - Elishay Kadir is an exciting 21 year old who if he makes the cut, could really make an impression. Israel might need someone who can do a little of everything off the bench including being aggressive and penetrating. This small forward / forward fits the bill perfectly. Averaged almost 15 points in the World University Games and definitely one to watch out for in future years

    X Factor - Lior Eliyahu. The tremendously gifted and exciting NBA draftee looks to have buried the hatchet with Coach Sherf after the shenanigans at Maccabi last year and both need to put their new relationship into action. After a move to the ACB in Spain and having seen Casspi picked up by Sacamento and edging towards history, you would hope this gives Eliyahu an extra edge to really raise his game in Poland. With him at his athletic best and with improved defence, Israel would have a much better opportunity of progressing

    Weak Points - The loss of the hugely influential captain Tapiro is a significant blow as he knew how to get it done and how to run the team on the floor. Yaniv Green works his backside off in the paint and is defensively very good but if he goes down injured or fouls out then a lack of depth in the five spot could be cruelly exposed. Indeed a simple lack of bulk and size means wins against two of their group rivals looks almost impossible.

    Strong Points - Israel have very little to lose. They almost blew qualification, they won't be expected to do too much but if Coach Sherf can ensure some chemistry, they have a group of players with confidence for the next few tournaments and are on a more exciting road. They have resilience and maybe more quality in some key areas than most people realise.

    Wish You Were Here - Meir Tapiro, Omri Casspi (if, as expected, he chooses his NBA career first)

    What fans should pack in their suitcase - A ‘Thank You' card for Great Britain player Nate Reinking whose needless and mind boggling foul with one second left of the very first qualification group game last summer gift-wrapped Israel an unlikely overtime win and one they desperately needed to get to Poland.

    Movies and Movie Titles for Israel - The classic ‘Brief Encounter' could summarise their tournament if they don't beat FYR of Macedonia.

    Key To Success - Simply beating FYR of Macedonia. This is a must win game to begin a journey which could lead to a bright future. Defeat would be a mini disaster. ISrael have to compete inside on defence and keep bigger opponents off the glass.

    Tournament Prediction - 9-12

    In just five words - time for the new generation
    http://www.fibaeurope.com/coid_SqdKR...frontpage.html
    Die Liebe wird eine Krankheit, wenn man sie als eine Heilung sieht
    Artificial Nature

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