|"It was really amazing playing with a guy of his talent," says Kenny Grant on his time playing with Nicolas Batum in SLUC Nancy |
Sweden continued a steady improvement in men's basketball by qualifying for EuroBasket 2013, but if the Scandinavians are now going to make an impact in Slovenia in 2013, stalwart guard Kenny Grant is under no illusions as to the importance of the return of NBA players Jonas Jerebko and Jeffery Taylor.
Jerebko averaged 20.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals in guiding Sweden to a second place finish in the qualifying Group B with a 4-4 record - just ahead of Bulgaria and Azerbaijan - for the country's first European Championship berth since hosting EuroBasket 2003.
"Jonas' leadership on the court was extremely important for us last summer. His ability to defend multiple positions and his rebounding ability really helped us," said Grant, who averaged 10.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds in the qualifiers.
"Offensively, Jonas created a lot of mismatches. He's a team-first player. He creates a lot of things for other players as well. I'm excited. We're all going to grow during this season and hopefully get better for next summer."
Grant is also getting better, having played last season in the Euroleague with SLUC Nancy alongside NBA star and French international Nicolas Batum, who was with the club during the 2011 NBA lockout.
"It was really amazing playing with a guy with his talent and his knowledge of the game. He really, really helped us on the court. At practice or in the game he has such knowledge of the game and plays the right way - making the extra pass and defensively he's such a presence. Overall he's a great all-around player. It was a great opportunity to play with him," said Grant.
The guard said the Swedes would benefit greatly if Taylor would play, giving them a better chance for success.
"I heard he's expressed the interest of playing. But that's up to him and the management of the Charlotte Bobcats whether he's allowed to play. I know that he would love to represent Sweden at EuroBasket," said Grant.
"If he does play, it's a great addition to the team. He's a guy like Jonas who can play multiple positions. He's a great athlete, and he's known for his defence as well. That's something you can always use on teams."
|Jeffery Taylor would be a massive addition to Sweden in Slovenia next summer, but has not pulled on the blue and yellow singlet since 2008|
Taylor is contributing nicely for Charlotte in his rookie season in the NBA after attending high school and college in the United States.
The Bobcats have been the Cinderella story from the opening month of the NBA, at the time of writing holding a 7-6 record, already managing to match their total wins in last season's 66-game calendar.
The 31st overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Taylor has been playing a key role in the Bobcats' early season successes, starting in 11 games and recording double figures in his last five appearances, seeing his name come up in rookie of the year discussions.
But the Vanderbilt University graduate has not played for his native Sweden since starring in the Division B of the 2008 U20 European Championship.
Taylor's athleticism and versatility would be a huge help for Sweden as they are drawn in a tough Group D with Finland, Greece, Italy, Russia and Turkey.
"If you're at the European Championship, every game is going to be tough. I'm actually really excited about this group. I feel that if you're in a competition like this, you do want to play against the big teams to see where you stand against them," said Grant.
"If you get exposed, you get exposed. But at least you're going to see what level you're at and where you can improve. It is a tough group with a lot of big names, but we are excited."
Grant said inside play will be hugely important for Sweden, who are not as tall as some other teams.
"Rebounding will be very important. We have to control the tempo of the game and hold teams to one shot," said Grant.
The S.T. Olai native will actually be the second player in his family to play for Sweden at a EuroBasket. His father, also named Kenny Grant, played for Sweden at the 1983 EuroBasket in France.
"For me, being able to play is something really special. It's special to be able to share these moments with family."
A couple of victories would help make it that much better.