|Point guard Sam Van Rossom is 'the leader of Belgium's new generation' according to veteran center Tomas Van Den Spiegel |
By Jeff Taylor
There once was a time when qualifying campaigns for EuroBaskets were very unkind to the men's national team of Belgium.
That is no longer the case.
For the second Qualification Round in a row, the Belgians did what they had to do to earn a place at the prestigious EuroBasket that is held every two years.
Six wins from their eight games were good enough to clinch a first-place finish in Group C of the Division A qualifiers for EuroBasket 2011.
And only one month ago, Belgium wrapped up a 5-3 campaign in Qualification Round Group E to finish third behind Poland and Finland and seal a place in next year's Final Round in Slovenia.
One of the players vital to the Belgian cause is Sam Van Rossom, a point guard who has been with the national side since their EuroBasket 2007 Division A campaign.
The 26-year-old averaged 12 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds in just under 28 minutes per game this summer.
Veteran Belgium center Tomas Van Den Spiegel called Van Rossom "the leader of the new generation" of the national team.
When told of Van Den Spiegel's assessment, Van Rossom smiled but then told Basketball World News: "It's not only me.
"We've got a guy like Jonathan Tabu (Eboma) who's playing in Italy.
"He's a big talent, too."
Tabu, who turned 27 in early October, averaged 11.9 points, 2.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds for Belgium this summer.
While Van Rossom currently plays in Spain with CAI Zaragoza, Tabu is on the books of Turkish Airlines Euroleague outfit Cantu.
"Okay, maybe from the new generation, we're the only two guys that play abroad but there is a lot of talent coming up and I think we can do good things in the future," Van Rossom said.
As it is, the confidence in the Belgium camp is growing under coach Eddy Casteels.
"We've qualified for the EuroBasket now two times in a row," Van Rossom said, "which for us is pretty good.
"The first time, we actually qualified as one of the 16 countries but then they made it bigger with 24.
"Still, that was a great satisfaction.
"Even this year, even with a lot of changes in the team, with Tomas not there and (Axel) Hervelle not there, there was a lot of experience that wasn't there so that's a good sign that we made it."
|Van Rossom points to Beye Tabu-Eboma, the only other Belgian international to ply his trade in a major European league, as his 'co-leader' on the national team|
Belgium ended an 18-year absence from the EuroBasket when they played in Lithuania in 2011.
For that reason, Van Rossom and his teammates aren't getting carried away with their back-to-back qualifications.
"I think we have to fight every single year to go to the EuroBasket," Van Rossom said.
"We should make it a goal to get there every single time.
"Once you get there, you know you play the top countries in Europe. It's not easy at all.
"Two years ago at the EuroBasket we didn't win one game, but okay, I think everyone learned a little bit from that and we got some experience.
"I hope we will be better next year."
The EuroBasket in Lithuania was a great event for many reasons, but one of the most important was the success of F.Y.R. of Macedonia.
They surprised everyone by reaching the Semi-Finals.
Another team to surpass expectations was Finland.
Henrik Dettmann's side had to go through the Additional Qualifying Round just to make the 24-team event in Lithuania but once there, progressed from the initial group stage.
Both sides showed that on the big stage, less heralded national teams can achieve great things if their players are smart and play as a team.
"Yes, it does give you hope to dream big," Van Rossom said, "but you have to be realistic.
"It's not like going from one day to the next that you are going to beat countries like Spain, for example.
"You have to be ambitious and look up to these teams as much as possible but at the same time, you need to be realistic.
"Okay, we can do good things but we're a country that cannot rely on one or two talents to finish games.
"We need to be collective. Everyone needs to be there and everyone needs to have good games to beat the bigger countries.
"That's the difficult part."