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Gershon Brings New Faces Into Squad

06 July 2009

Bulgaria coach Pini Gershon has included eight players in his preliminary squad for the EuroBasket that did not take part in last year's successful qualifying campaign, including Boyko Mladenov.

The 2.14m center, who turned out for Bulgaria in their Division A campaign for EuroBasket 2007, is back in the national side after raising eyebrows with a solid year at Levski Sofia.

Gershon is incorporating two 19-year-olds, Bozhidar Avramov and Alexander Yanev, into the senior team set-up.

Yanev excelled in Bulgaria's U19 National Championship and Derbi Youth League and was called up by Euroins Cherno More to compete in the play-off finals against Lukoil Academik (Cherno lost 3-1).

Another new face is Sofia-born Vasil Evtimov.

The oldest son of Bulgarian legend Ilia Evtimov, who played for the country in the 1977, '79 and 85 European Championships, the 32-year-old Vasil Evtimov also has French nationality and represented Les Bleus at the EuroBasket eight years ago.

After talks between the French and Bulgarian Federations, and following the special approval of FIBA, Gershon called Evtimov into his squad.

As for the returning players, the top six scorers - all who averaged at least 9.4 points per contest, have been called again.

Former Penn Quaker Ibrahim Jaaber will return for his second summer since becoming a naturalized Bulgarian.

He led the team in scoring last season at 16 points per game.

Deyan Ivanov (15.9), Todor Stoykov (14.4), Filip Videnov (13.2), Kaloyan Ivanov (12.5) and Dimitar Angelov (9.4) are all in the preliminary group.

Bulgaria, who won four off their eight qualifying games last year, will play in the Final Round in Group D against hosts Poland, Turkey and the bronze-medal winners of two years ago in Spain, Lithuania.

Players will gather in Sofia on July 15 to start the preparations, though some will be late in showing.

The captain, Todor Stoykov, has been granted a few additional days before training as he is getting married earlier in July.

Asen Velikov, Stanislav Slveykov, Ivan Lilov, Chavdar Kostov, Zlatin Georgiev and Hristo Nikolov have been playing at the World University Games in Belgrade.  Avramov and Yanev will also play at the U20 European Championship in Skopje (Division B).

Gershon's men will have friendly games in Sofia.

They will start against Portugal and will then go up against Belgium.

Both of those opponents are in the Additional Qualifying Round for the EuroBasket.

Bulgaria will take part in the traditional tournament known as The Prize of Sofia along with Belarus, Montenegro and Cyprus.

There will also be friendly games with defending European champions Russia, who are coached by Gershon's former colleague at Maccabi Tel Aviv, David Blatt, and Serbian club Hemofarm.

The team will then participate in a tournament in Slovenia and play against Greece and the Slovenians.

Bulgaria preliminary squad: Vasil Evtimov +, Tencho Banev, Boyko Mladenov +, Stefan Georgiev, Deyan Ivanov, Kaloyan Ivanov, Dimitar Angelov, Todor Stoykov, Zlatin Georgiev +, Stanislav Slaveykov +, Alexander Yanev +, Hristo Nikolov +, Filip Videnov, Chavdar Kostov, Ivan Lilov +, Ibrahim Jaaber, Bozhidar Avramov and Asen Velikov +.

*** + notes players not in last year's final squad.

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