|22 April 2008|
Tyronne Marioneaux is an optimist.
The Dutch U18 national team coach believes his side can win promotion to Division A at this summer's Division B European Champinoship to be staged in Hungary.
Yes, Marioneaux believes his team can go up despite the Netherlands finishing 16th at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim, Germany.
They knocked off Italy and only lost by one point to Israel in the game for 15th place.
Marioneaux spoke to FIBA Europe at the Schweitzer event.
FIBA Europe: Coach Marioneaux how has this tournament helped your efforts looking forward to this summer?
Marioneaux: We saw how they play at the highest level - with the strength and speed. Especially we learned that you have to play at full speed. That's what we learned. Also, maybe the fact that we played against such physical players will also help us in the future.
FIBA Europe: What was the most positive aspect for your team coming out of this tournament?
Marioneaux: Beating Italy was definitely the most positive. It was the first time in [our] history that we did so. It also gives the guys more confidence. Except for the first game (against Germany) and the one against Turkey, they stayed in the game with every opponent [in every other game]. So that gives them a lot more confidence.
FIBA Europe: Looking forward to this summer's Division B European Championship, what's the thing you learned most about your team here?
Marioneaux: I think what I learned here is what I have to train with my guys. On their level, their weaknesses do not always come up so clear. But here they came up very clear. I've learned things about my players at this tournament that I never realised before. So I have a clearer picture of what I have to do. So I think, knowing that, things will go much better.
FIBA Europe: What do you think about having Montenegro, Czech Republic, Norway and Austria in your group?
Marioneaux: As far as Montenegro and the others go, we always try to concentrate on our strengths rather than trying to defend against the strengths of the other teams.
FIBA Europe: What are you expectations for the event? Do you think the Netherlands can be promoted to Division A?
Marioneaux: My expectation is that we can win it. And the reason I think that is because last year, I was with the U16 and we played against both finalists, Hungary and Poland. We were up 10 points in the first quarter against Hungary and we were ahead of Poland by five points with a couple minutes to go. So the experience was important. If I can get my guys stronger, I really think we have a chance, especially after this (Albert Schweitzer) tournament. When I see what we could do here, it gives me a lot of confidence for what's coming up.
FIBA Europe: Who are some of the guys who stepped up their games here and will play an important role this summer?
Marioneaux: For one, my tall guy Luuk Kortekaas (pictured). When he came here he was like a big baby. And now he's not quite there yet but he's moving in the right direction. I need him and his development is very positive. In the first game here he was still timid and scared. In the last three games he was dunking over people. That's a big change.
FIBA Europe: What would you say is the one thing the team needs to improve to get to next level?
Marioneaux: We have to work a lot on passing and working together. Before this tournament we only had three trainings together. And we didn't know each other, so that was a big disadvantage. I didn't have time to work on defense. And when we played (in Mannheim) our defense was really terrible. So the main thing I need to do is work on our defense and positioning for the rebound. The offense will go by itself because everybody wants to play offense.
FIBA Europe: Is there anything else you really think the team needs to improve?
Marioneaux: I'm trying to tell the team to take a different approach. Usually when they would come into a tournament like this they would look at the opponents and say 'Oh, we can't beat them.' And we're trying to change that. And everybody saw that against Italy.