Experts' Wrap

23 September 2013

EUROBASKET 2013

fibaeurope.com posed the big questions to three of their journalists who will covered EuroBasket in Slovenia, prior to the tournament beginning. Now they give us their opinions of how the tournament went.

For a look back on their earlier prediction, click here.

 

Dimitris Kontos
Mark WoodsDave Hein
Dimitris Kontos is a regular writer for fibaeurope.com but made his biggest contribution to basketball on the court, during his teenage years, by positioning himself out of the way of those who could actually play and thus avoiding causing injuries to at least four kids who went on to become international players. Mark Woods is a UK-based writer and broadcaster who has been covering basketball for over 20 years. In addition to working with FIBA Europe TV, he appears on Sky Sports and the BBC as well as contributing to publications in the UK and United States.David Hein has used basketball to explore the world for more than a decade, writing for FIBA Europe, FIBA, Euroleague and plenty of outlets along the way. The main man at heinnews - and mastermind behind the Taking The Charge podcast - appreciates the beauty of the international game, digs youth hoops and loves the extra pass.

 

AN EYE ON THE FUTURE

Dario Saric (Croatia)
Dario Saric was a player that impressed the experts as he continues to mature at senior level

DK: European fans had the chance to see Jan Vesely in action again after two years and most were left thinking that the upcoming NBA season will be a critical one in his career. If the Czech forward finally gets more playing time, and he does it mostly at the '4' spot, there is no limit to his potential.

Someone who will definitely get plenty of time on the court this year, as the new captain of Olimpia Milano, is Italy's Alessandro Gentile. He is the complete package, totally fearless (how many 21-year-old backcourt players do you know that are not fazed by a mid-air collision with Marc Gasol?) and has been brought up with the mentality to be a champion and a dominant player in this game.

MW: Alessandro Gentile of Italy was a beast, leading his team in points (14.2) and shooting 45.6%. Bigger than that, he showed immense poise in pressure situations, earning the trust of his teammates. A number of NBA scouts here told me he was their top young prospect.

Croatia's Dario Saric was a little disappointing, not having the breakout tournament that some hoped for. But he was still one of the main contributors to his team's run to the semi-finals, and showed enough to hint at a bright future.

DH: A number of players could be picked here. There is Sweden's Ludvig Hakanson, who was not shy about the spotlight despite his tender age of 17. Sergey Karasev showed Russia have an emerging star coming. Serbia...were...well Serbia with amazing young talents like Bogdan Bogdanovic and 19-year-old Vasilje Micic among others. France center Alexis Ajinca showed he could maybe have an NBA future after all and Zoran Dragic impressed with his improving all-around game for hosts Slovenia.

But Dario Saric's showing for Croatia has been unbelievable. Saric may not have great numbers (5.5 points-per-game, 3.1 rebounds-per-game and 0.9 assists-per-game) but he has clearly adapted his game from a point forward (at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship he finished second in scoring, rebounding and assists) to a power forward. The 19-year-old has learned how to play without the ball and will only excel even further down the road.

 

BIGGEST SURPRISE

DK: One can take their pick from a number of displays that fell well short of expectations, but let's still stick to the positive surprises: Italy, Ukraine and Croatia. The latter came to the EuroBasket branded as a lax assembly of talented players who could not play as a team, did not care for their country, and so on. They were burned at the stake after their embarrassing loss to Spain in their opener but stuck together and once they remembered how it is to play for the thrill of the win rather than dreading a loss, they won eight in a row.

MW: It was a tournament of the unexpected. We saw Belgium step up and make a mark. Ukraine played ultra-smart basketball and proved surprisingly durable. Croatia's new generation flourished and even though Serbia crashed to earth in the quarter-finals, there is hope for the next decade if they can add a meaner streak.

But, just as memorable, were the chief flops: Russia and Turkey, a reminder that history counts for nothing if you don't bring talent and a clear focus, on and off the court.

 

DH: Let's start with the bad - always end on a high note, right?

On paper, Turkey were considered a darkhorse title challenger. Maybe the injury to guard Omer Onan just before the start of the tournament hurt them. But they should not have been 1-4 bad. Hidayet Türkoglu's presence seemed to hurt the team more than help it - he did not play in Turkey's only win over Sweden. Head coach Bogdan Tanjevic admitted after being eliminated that he was looking ahead to the Second Round. He ended up stepping down days later.

The biggest surprise in a good way had to be Ukraine. Going from never reaching the Second Round to the quarter-finals and in the end sixth place - and a spot in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - was a great story. A number of players showcased themselves as high-level players and gives the EuroBasket 2015 hosts plenty of reason for hope.

 

BEST FROM THE SIDELINES

Lithuaina head coach Jonas Kazlauskas celebrating with Linas Kleiza
Lithuaina head coach Jonas Kazlauskas may not have been able to lead his team to gold, but in the opinion of Mark Woods, he was still the best coach in Slovenia

DK: Among the many candidates, Bozidar Maljkovic is the one who will receive the least praise, certainly less than he deserves in this tournament. The veteran Serbian coach of Slovenia assigned clear roles to each of his 12 players, enabled every one of them to take out their best qualities on the court and the team as a whole managed to hide its weaknesses very, very successfully.

Yugoplastika, Limoges, and to a great extent Panathinaikos and Unicaja Malaga did something similar when Maljkovic was at the helm. Those sides ended up playing diametrically different styles of basketball, but always the best suited to the personnel at their disposal.

MW: It can not be easy being Jonas Kazlauskas. So much talent, so much depth, so many options. In Lithuania's run to the final, he shuffled his rotation, started guys in one game, benched them in others, but seemed to find the right faces each time. It also vindicated his choice to go with a mix of experience and youth rather than go for a gut and re-build.

DH: Sure, Italy left EuroBasket 2013 empty-handed - not even a berth in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. But give credit to Italy coach Simone Pianigiani. He had to change his team's mentality and style of play in the final weeks before the tournament due to a rash of injuries. He formed a tight-knit, energy-driven unit around the trio of Marco Belinelli, Luigi Datome and Alessandro Gentile. With just one nominal center on the squad, Pianigiani somehow got power forward Nicolo Melli to think he's a center - and the youngster held his own. However, playing three knockout games in three days was too much for Pianigiani's shallower, less experienced squad. With more rest, the Azzurri could have continued playing what some considered the best basketball in the First Round through which they were the only undefeated team.

 


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