What will happen to German basketball when the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Ademola Okulaja and Patrick Femerling retire from the senior national team?
Some observers are full of doom and gloom. They predict Germany will fight against relegation.
But really, it doesn't matter what people think.
The only ones who matter are the players, and while they are still a ways from making an appearance in the senior team, the U18 German group will go a long way in deciding the long-term fate of German basketball.
|Blümel thinks Simon Schmitz will play a key role for Germany at the U18 European Championship Men this summer.|
At the recent Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim, Germany, Under-18 coach Kay Blümel spoke to FIBAEurope.com.
FIBA Europe: Germany finished ninth in the Albert Schweitzer Tournament. How satisfied are you with the team's performance in Mannheim?
Blümel: I'm very satisfied with the performance. We had (finalists) Turkey on the edge of a defeat. We beat Russia by 22 points, Italy by 10 points and Croatia by 21. I suppose we had the odd game which wasn't very impressive, but all told, I think you have to say it was a good showing and I think the ninth place shows that there is a lot of potential for this team.
FIBA Europe: This summer at the U18 European Championship in Greece, your German squad will face France, Russia and Ukraine in Group C. This showing here must make you optimistic?
Blümel: In the summer, it will be a totally different. I'm sure they will all have a few different players. The French have a number of players I'm sure and of course the Russians are missing the players from CSKA Moscow, who will be playing at the Euroleague Final Four. So they will be a different team as well. Plus, Ukraine for us is a very uncomfortable team. So it will be very, very difficult for us.
FIBA Europe: With that in mind, what is Germany's goal for Greece?
Blümel: Our goal remains getting the third place - even though we beat these teams here. And we want to try not to be relegated. And then we'll see. If we can accomplish that, then we'll look forward. But that is our main goal. We don't want to set our goals too high.
FIBA Europe: What does the team have to do to reach that goal?
Blümel: We still need to work on our orientation on offense. Some of the players still need to work on their games individually. We will also have a conditioning training camp. The team has a good foundation - we did, after all, have nine games in 11 days. But we will need to keep that condition and improve on it to play a European Championship at such a high level.
FIBA Europe: Who are some of the players who are candidates to be added to the team or players who may not make the trip to Greece?
Blümel: It's very tough to say who will not be there. Of course we're missing Maurice Stuckey, who is our starting point guard. Also not here is Akeem Vargas. We have one or two more players whom we looked at and still want them to try out for the team. We will have to see. But the nucleus of the team is together and we will build upon that.
FIBA Europe: Which player during the Schweitzer tournament really kind of surprised you with his performance?
Blümel: I think we can be a bit surprised positively about the performance of Jonas Wohlfahrt-Bottermann, who has only been playing basketball for three years and goes everywhere where it hurts. He does a good job on defense in the back. He is really one of the biggest talents we have on this team at the moment. Among others, (former Germany international) Detlef Schrempf said he has the brightest perspectives - even for the NBA.
FIBA Europe: Who would you say are the main figures for this German team?
Blümel: Erik Land, Maik Zirbes, Simon Schmitz, Jonas, Jusuf el-Domiaty - those are the five who I would say are set. Unless something major happens, I think they'll be there in the summer. Others close behind are Niels Giffey, who had a bad tournament here and is a lot better, Bastian Winterhalter. Robert Huelsewede also had a poor tournament and actually is one of the pillars of the team. So I expect a lot more from him too. I'm sure he will be a lot better this summer.
FIBA Europe: What about Femi Oladipo, who was one of the team's main weapons on offense?
Blümel: Femi as well. But we'll have to see. He's with the team for the first time. He has some social problems in the past which he did not display at all here. He really acted very well and really played well with the team. He has his holes and weaknesses in the defense, which we need to work on. But he is excellent on offense. If the entire picture of offense and defense are okay, then his chances are very good.
FIBA Europe: And who is the one player on this team who is irreplaceable?
Blümel: There is not one player. This is a real team and that's very positive. We are a team. We do everything together. When we were on the road or in the accommodations they were all together. There is no one heart of the team. They are one heart. And that makes things that much, much easier.