U20 MEN DIVISION B
|Boris Barac, who was Croatia's top scorer and rebounder at the U20 European Championship in 2011, is expected to lead the charge to Division A |
By Jeff Taylor
There is a prevailing attitude in the ranks of the 13 players trying to make the Croatia squad for the U20 European Championship that the team should not be in Division B.
But that is the fate that befell the proud basketball nation last year when it competed in the Division A tournament in Bilbao that was loaded with quality sides from top to bottom.
Croatia came in dead last of the 16 teams and dropped into Division B with Austria, a team that had only been promoted the year before.
The coach of the Croatia team that will be at the U20 Division B event 12-22 July in Sofia, Bulgaria, Niksa Bavcevic, says going right back up is the aim.
"This is a big challenge for our guys," he said to Basketball World News.
"Last year, it was a big surprise, a shock, when we finished in Division B.
"But okay, this is sport."
Last year, Croatia took on France, Sweden and Latvia in Group B and won one of their three games, a two-point triumph over Latvia.
The Swedes and Latvians were also 1-2, however, and finished second and third ahead of Croatia on a goal differential tie-breaker.
Croatia were eventually condemned to relegation after a 92-68 defeat to Lithuania.
"Now we hope, with great respect for all our opponents, that we can go again to Division A, which is where I think we belong," Bavcevic said.
|Point guard Roko Rogic is the second player on the Croatia roster who played in Division A last summer|
At the Division B event in Bulgaria, Croatia will take on Denmark, Great Britain, Belarus and Portugal in Group C.
Already the team has to overcome some adversity.
"We are missing three important players through injuries and a couple of other guys with school obligations in Croatia or the United States," Bavcevic said.
"Filip Najev, Marko Ramljak and Toni Katic - they are very important for our team but unfortunately because of injuries, they cannot join us.
"But, still we hope that we can qualify for Division A."
When asked about the players he thinks can have prominent roles with the team, Bavcevic revealed nothing.
"I won't saying anything at the moment because there are 13 players and it wouldn't be fair because right now, I am making my judgment," he said.
As part of their build-up to the U20 European Championship Division B, Croatia have played the country's 'B' selection, and also taken on a Slovenia side that will play in the Division A tournament.
"We go to Italy (Wednesday) to play in a tournament against Italy, Greece and France," Bavcevic said.
"After that, we will have an additional two games with the Italian U20 team.
"And after that, I will make my decision about the final team and we're leaving on the 10th for Sofia."