|11 July 2012|
U20 MEN DIVISION B
|Daniel Friedrich, with experience in Division A last year, is one of the players who will try to bring Austria back into the top flight of the U20 European Championship|
Austria, the Slovak Republic, Israel and Bulgaria are the four teams that will try to get out of Group A with a valuable ticket to the Second Round in their hands.
As can often be the case, a team that goes up one year goes right back down the next.
That happened to Austria, who celebrated a gold-medal win in Division B in 2010 but last year didn't survive a tough Group A that saw them face Greece, Turkey, and eventual champions Spain.
Their build-up has not gone smoothly, with a flu bug sweeping through the team in the third week of June.
Making things even worse, Austria, who were already without Jozo Radoz (injured) and Nizar Kapic (focusing on his college search in America), lost Carlos Novas Mateo to a metacarpal injury during the preparations.
One player with a chance to make amends from last year is Daniel Friedrich, a 1.82m point guard who played almost 14 minutes per game in Bilbao.
Another returning player is Filip Krämer, who averaged almost 18 minutes per game.
The Slovak Republic finished 12th in the 22-team U20 European Championship Division B last year.
The Slovakians won't have Richard Grznár, who poured in 25.3 points per game for the under-20 team last year, but a couple of big men are returning in 2.00m Viktor Timko, who led the team in blocks at 1.1 per game, and 2.02m Andrej Slávik, who averaged almost 19 minutes per game.
As for players who could feature and have performed well for the country at a younger level, the 2.06m center Boris Bojanovsky is one.
He was a monster at the U18 European Championship Division B one year ago, averaging 22 points and 13.3 rebounds.
Israel have produced some fine players over the years and one of the up-and-coming stars who will be a key at the U20 European Championship Division B is Or Solomon.
A 1.97m small forward, Solomon had a terrific U18 European Championship Division B last year, averaging 17.5 points and 8.1 rebounds.
While missing the start of Israel's preparations because of injury, he has returned and recently led the team with 15 points in a 74-59 friendly defeat to Turkey.
Guy Lavie, a 1.87m point guard, averaged almost 13 points per game for Israel in the U20 Division B Championship last year and will have a leading role in this year's team.
As hosts of the U20 European Championship Division B, Bulgaria have high hopes for a medal and promotion.
Pavlin Ivanov, the U18 Division B MVP and Bulgaria's top scorer last year, top rebounder Dimitar Dimitrov, Tencho Tenchev and Aleks Simeonov do not seem fazed by the challenge of having to replicate the feat as 19-year-olds at U20 level.