|07 December 2011|
|Ukraine Basketball Federation President and legendary power forward Sasha Volkov is highly respectful of group rivals Croatia, despite their poor showing at EuroBasket 2011 |
The draw for the teams that will compete in the qualifying round for EuroBasket 2013 happened on Sunday, so there has been plenty of time to digest what happened in Ukraine and Croatia.
Both countries had teams at the EuroBasket in Lithuania but did not progress from the initial group stage.
In their battle to reach Slovenia, Ukraine and Croatia will compete in Group B with Austria, Cyprus and Hungary.
Oleksandr Volkov, the Ukraine basketball great who serves as the federation president, said: "I think that compared to the rest of the groups, ours is rather comfortable.
"But I would not want our fans, players, coaches nor myself to relax over this.
"We haven't played Croatia in official games for quite a while and even though they did poorly at the previous EuroBasket, they still are one of the top national teams in Europe.
"We played against Hungary twice during qualification for EuroBasket 11 and had a very difficult win against them in a home game in Lviv and lost on the road.
"They are a team that is gradually entering the European basketball elite and we have to be very careful with them.
"Can't say much about Austria - just heard they don't play too well on their home court, while Cyprus is a clear home team that has naturalized Greek and American players."
Croatia are still looking for a new coach following a parting of ways with Josip Vranković, so the draw for the EuroBasket 2013 Qualification Round was just one of the subjects in country's Basketball Association (HKS).
HKS president Danko Radic was extremely satisfied after landing in Group B.
"Sincerely, we've got pretty much easy rivals, since we were in the first pot," he said.
"But, it could have been worse. Much worse.
"Now, with this draw, we've got a chance to rehabilitate our national team and to introduce some new players, who must get their chance."
Asked if the decision for the new coach near, Radic didn't want to reveal any details.
"Our Expert Council will gather soon, and they will make a short list of candidates.
"After that, we'll speak with them, so I believe everything will be solved soon."
In Ukraine, Volkov does expect Mike Fratello to return and lead the team for a second summer in a row.
"Unless something extra ordinary happens, Mike Fratello will continue to be the head coach of Ukraine national team," Volkov said.
"There might be some changes in his coaching staff, though.
"Mike's got a plan to come over to Ukraine several times after the new year to watch national championship games live and talk to the players.
"He is, by the way, flying in to support our EuroBasket 2015 bid in Munich. We are really hoping to win the right to host the event, which will allow us to make a long-term plan for the development of the game in our country."
The 18th of December is when Ukraine will discover if they are to stage the EuroBasket.
If their bid is successful, it will mean the country is going to have a stretch of major sporting events with Ukraine co-hosting the Euro 2012 football championship.
"We know that in order for us to host EuroBasket 2015 at the highest possible level, we need to organize several youth events and we are ready to apply for any of them in case of us getting the right to host the main European competition," Volkov said.
"Most of the board members watched Euro 2012 draw several days ago and they all acknowledge that despite all the pessimism, Ukraine managed to fulfill all the needed requirements and come out ready for the biggest European soccer event.
"The infrastructure that the nation inherits is a huge foundation for us to host any high-level sporting events in the future."