|13 June 2008|
There's a new attitude in Ukraine, where the country is hoping to become a major player on the European hoops scene again.
Following Valentyn Melnychuk's successful run to the EuroBasket 2007 quarter-final qualifying round with Portugal, the Ukrainian federation lured him home to coach their senior team.
He'll be keeping a watchful eye on the development of the under-20 squad to see how its players fit into the short-term, and long-term plans of the senior side.
|Senior head coach Valentyn Melnychuk will be watching the U20 team closely. |
"We are constantly in touch with Valentin Melnychuk," said Denys Zhuravliov, the coach of the under-20 team.
"He shares his ideas, suggests how to better use certain players.
"I am sure he will be closely following the performance of our leaders, who, at the age of 20, are fully ready to help the senior team."
Zhuravliov, an assistant coach at BC Kyiv during the club campaign, likes the makeup of his squad.
"We have a bunch of talented players," he said.
"BC Kyiv will most likely be represented by Denys Lukashov and Andrei Novikov.
"Serhiy Gladyr, Maxim Vilkhovetskiy and Olexandr Kolchenko will represent other Superleague clubs.
"They will be the core of the team with Gladyr taking centre stage as we'll build most of our offensive sets around him, because of his sharpshooting ability."
Gladyr, a 1.96m small forward, averaged 15 points per game this season for Mykolaiv.
"We'll have a thorough preparation for the tournament", Zhuravliov said.
"We'll start our camp in Mykolaiv on June 21, after which we'll travel to the Moscow Region where we'll face Russia's under-20 team. After that, we'll play twice against Israel and will take part in an international tournament before heading to Riga."
Getting positive results in the friendlies during the warm-up period is not essential.
"The first stage in Mykolaiv and in the Moscow Region will allow me to see what we have, where we are," Zhuravliov said.
"If possible, I would even like to play the games against Russia without keeping score. It will be meaningless.
Looking ahead to the U20 European Championship, Zhuravliov expects some very hard games.
"We have a very tough group - Lithuania, Greece and Croatia - and mental readiness will be as important as physical," he said.
"We'll need to make sure that the climate is good. I will talk to every single player to find out what the state of mind is in each. They will need to socialize with each other a lot."
Expectations will not be soaring going into the U20 event in Riga which tips off at the beginning of August.
"The goal the federation sets for us for the upcoming European Championship is not to get relegated to Division B," Zhuravliov said.
"We'll need to win at least one game to not let that happen.
"Of course I want more, so we will try to do everything we can to get past the group."
The players taking part in the national team program didn't have much time between the end of the regular season and the start of training for Riga.
"Despite a long season," Zhuravliov said, "the players don't have much time to relax.
"In fact, they shouldn't allow themselves to. I know from my personal experience that one week is enough to recover from the season.
"And even during this short holiday, they must jog and work out. Otherwise, it will be hard to get back in the practice flow."