|25 July 2014|
EUROBASKET 2015 QR
|Sam Van Rossom wants to take a break from the national team this summer|
When Belgium launched their qualification campaign earlier in the summer with the motto 'Go for three', it was thought all the usual suspects would be on board on this trip towards a third consecutive EuroBasket tournament.
As it happens, when the 2nd Qualifying Round tips off on 10 August Belgium will have to embark on the journey towards their third EuroBasket in a row without several first-class passengers, two of which have stayed back at the station quite unexpectedly.
Belgium head coach Eddy Casteels and national team manager Jacques Ledure surprised many on Thursday when they announced a 12-man squad for the 2nd Qualifying Round that did not include neither playmaker Sam Van Rossom nor winger Matt Lojeski, who were initially expected to join the team's training camp in early August.
Van Rossom, who became an international player in 2004 and had represented his country uninterruptedly every year since then, has asked to rest this summer ahead of the demanding season that awaits him in the Euroleague and the Spanish Liga Endesa.
The 28-year-old point guard is coming off arguably the best season of his career, as the floor general of a Valencia Basket side that conquered the Eurocup title and reached within a whiff of the Spanish play-off finals.
On the other hand, the Belgian Federation (FRBB) were disappointed by the stance of Lojeski, who informed them he did not intend to play for Belgium this summer.
The Amerinan-born sharp-shooter, who obtained Belgian nationality last year but was injured in preparations and missed out on EuroBasket 2013, is not struggling with any health issues, the FRBB understands.
"We do not close the door permanently on these two players, but it is clear that we start today with the feeling that they will not participate this campaign," commented Ledure.
"It will be difficult [this summer] but all of us, players and staff, are optimistic and want to 'go for three'."
Meanwhile Jonathan Tabu, who was Van Rossom's partner at the point guard spot at EuroBasket 2013, as well as Guy Muya, Quentin Serron and Niels Marnegrave were ruled out from this qualification campaign early in the summer, all due to injuries.
All this means that only five of the players who helped Belgium reach a fantastic 9th spot last September in Slovenia will pull on the national jersey this August.
Power forwards Axel Hervelle and Maxime De Zeeuw, small forwards Wen Mukubu and Jean Marc Mwema will spearhead Belgium's 2nd Qualification Round campaign.
Veteran point guard Lionel Bosco, who last suited up for the national team in 2009, and 23-year-old forward Pierre-Antoine Gillet, who had participated in the qualifying campaign for EuroBasket 2013, will also make a return with the Belgian Lions this summer.
Meanwhile guards Olivier Troisfontaines (of Stella Artois Leuven Bears) and Alexandre Libert (of Verviers Pepinster), who are coming off an excellent season in the Ethias League, are headlining a group of five promising players, all under the age of 23, who have convinced coach Casteels they are ready to play with the senior national team.
The other three are big men Khalid Boukichou and Kevin Tumba, and winger Loic Schwartz.
Belgium's 12-strong roster may still be increased to 13 men ahead of the start of the 2nd Qualification Round as Roel Moors, the vastly experienced 36-year-old guard, has expressed his desire to help the national team yet one more time, should he achieve the consent of his club.
The Belgian Lions were drawn in Group D and are kick-starting their qualification campaign on 10 August with a demanding fixture on the road, as they visit F.Y.R. of Macedonia.