By Yarone Arbel
By far the biggest story of the 2008 U16 European Championship was the performance of the Czech team.
They shocked and upset one big name after another on their way to the finals and a historical silver medal displaying a very competitive and tough-mind group of players.
Having two teams in Division A, a silver medal and several big prospects made Czech basketball look as the new rising star of the European scene.
One year later things looks tougher for the Czech side.
After the U20 team climbed as well to Division A this summer, despite missing some key players, it seemed like the party was still on, but then things changed.
The U18 team finished last in their competition and dropped back to Division B.
Here in Kaunas in the U16 games the opening day wasn't a reason for celebration as well in the Czech camp after a 75-64 lost to Germany. A loss against Croatia on Day 2 that, like their U18 brothers, they will be fighting to avoid relegation.
"It was a very happy day for Czech basketball when we won the silver medal last year," says current U16 coach Jan Ulrych to fibaeurope.com.
"But the team that come here didn't arrive with big expectations because of that award.
"This generation isn't as good as the other from last year, but we do have some good players. We can still compete and want to give our best in every game."
Only one silver medal winner from last year is still playing for the U16 Czech team - Martin Kriz.
He was one of the best players in the first game against Germany, and coach Ulrych hopes he'll enjoy his good performance in the upcoming games as well.
"Our goal here is to stay in Division A," added Ulrych.
"We have a young team, and we'll look for the wins that will make that difference for us," he says at the end of his team's practice before the big match against Croatia.
"We still have a goal to complete."