|Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is the one player returning to the Ukraine U16 team for a second season|
On 10 June the Ukraine U16 men's team will begin the final stage of preparation for the U16 European Championship, which will take place in Kyiv Palace of Sports (Palats Sportu) from 8 to 18 August.
Prior to the preparations, which will be attended by all 16 players nominated by Ukraine's national team coach Vitali Usenko, Fibaeurope.com talked with the coach about the up-and-coming tournament and the expectations on his team.
You have the youngest team, but you also have a player who has already played at the European Championships - Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. You also have players, who played in the European Youth Basketball League. Will their international experience help during the important matches of the U16 European Championship?
Yes, we have five players of BC "Donetsk" on the list of candidates for the national team - Zotov, Khitov, Musienko, Starodub and Pavlov - who this season won the Premier Division of the European Youth Basketball League in the age group U16 (boys born in 1997 and younger). Mikhailyuk and Potapenko played for the "Cherkassy Monkeys" in the European Youth Basketball League team for players born in 1996 and became bronze medalists. Undoubtedly, this experience will be useful for the players, the more matches they play at international level, the more confident the players will feel, especially when faced with any difficulties during the competition.
The Croatian national team is one of your rivals in the group at the European Championship, so does the game with the Croats seem to be particularly important?
Two players of the current lineup of the Croatian national team played in the last year's European Championship, so I remember them. But I haven't seen the new Croatian team, so it will be very interesting for me. I have seen Greece and France and I must say that they have a very strong lineup. The Greeks are the winners and the French - the bronze winners of the International Tournament in Turkey, the so called small world championship.
From the rest of your rivals at the European Championship, you are familiar with the team of Latvia, a team you played against at last year's European Championship.
Yes, but only one player is left in the team from that lineup. However, Latvia as well as Ukraine took part in the tournament in Turkey, so I have records of all of their matches. Another rival in our group currently known to us the least - is the national team of Italy - I know the team has a player who is 210 cm and that the leader of the Italians is considered one of the top-ten best young players of Europe. So as you can see, our rivals are very strong, we face a difficult task but we can manage it.
The training schedule of Ukraine U16 men's national team is provided below:
• 10-23 June Training session (Kyiv)
• 19-21 June Official games (Kyiv)
• 27 June-8 July Training session (Pushcha-Vodytsya)
• 4-8 July International Tournament (France)
• 12-20 July Training session (Pushcha-Vodytsya)
• 20-24 July International tournament (Lithuania)
• August 1-7 Training session (Pushcha-Vodytsya)