|07 August 2012|
U18 MEN DIVISION B
Only Belgium have any real experience of Division A level in Group D but that just makes Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal and Netherlands all the more eager to join that particular club.
|Adi Zahiragic provided scoring for Bosnia and Herzegovina at U16 level |
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The hosts didn't compete at this tournament last summer but two years ago in Tel-Aviv, they managed a creditable eighth-place finish.
However, the basis of the decision to re-enter the U18 European Championship is that they have a talented number of 1995 players in particular who finished in third spot last summer at the U16 European Championship.
Agonizingly, they won every game but the important one - the Semi-Final. But, that experience will be invaluable to the likes of the free-scoring small forward Nedim Buza or swingman Adi Zahiragic who combined for almost 30 points per game in Strumica.
It's now four years since Belgium last played in the top flight and perhaps time they made a strong move, especially with a ‘Low Countries' derby game against Netherlands to further fuel their energy and aspirations.
But, they have lost most of their team from last year since it was dominated by 1993 born players although forward Arno Mollekens will be able to harness that experience and offer plenty on the boards for his team.
Emmanuel Lecomte will breathe new life into the offence if he reproduces the kind of scoring and passing ability which resulted in almost 14 points and four assists per game last summer at U16 European Championship Division B in Strumica.
Equally important will be 2.04m frontcourt patroller Mathijs Gijbels, who will support Mollekens in trying to clean up the glass.
|Forward Shane Hammink will provide the Netherlands with scoring and rebounding |
After a reasonably strong campaign last summer in Bulgaria, the Netherlands are likely to have another strong tilt at promotion this year and especially if, as expected, they have the highly rated Shane Hammink who is very much the heartbeat of the team.
He led the team in both scoring and rebounding last summer but has so many different facets to his game and could prove to be one of the starts of the tournament.
The other player who can potentially provide big plays at both ends of the floor is Mike Schilder, a guard who is beginning to make a breakthrough with Eiffel Towers in the Dutch league and came up with plenty of assists and steals last summer.
After a mediocre mid-table finish in Varna, Portugal will be hoping they can find that little bit extra to perhaps reach a quarter-final spot this year.
Forward duo Joao Grosso and Andre Miguens will both return from last year's team to provide the benefits of some continuity and a strong base whilst the key could be Isaias Insaly.
If the powerful centre links up in the paint and shows anything like the blistering form he produced at the U16 European Championship Division B last year where he finished with over 16 points and nine rebounds, Portugal can expect to do better.
Despite a phenomenal performance from Beka Burjanadze last summer, Georgia could only muster a 15th place finish although they did manage to rack up three wins including one over Belgium who they meet again.
Burjanadze who should be back to headline the charge once more, finished with a supreme tournament double-double and also led his teams in steals and blocked shots.
He also produced at this year's U20 European Championship with 16.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
In fact, Georgia will be confident of improving on last year's performance since the bulk of their team was 1994 born including the likes of point guard Irakli Mikeladze who averaged over nine points and three assist per game in Varna.
Nugzar Abuladze meanwhile will also bring plenty to the table in the backcourt since the versatile 1.82m guard was the main player for Georgia at the U16 European Championship last summer.