Pole Position Is Currently In California

09 July 2007

By David Broome, PA Sport

Poland are quite literally going the extra mile to improve their game by travelling to California to begin preparations for 2007 EuroBasket.

Andrej Urlep's men, who will face France, Italy and Slovenia in Group D once the EuroBasket tips off in September, are currently competing in the Summer Pro League.

The SPL is a highly-rated competition that has served as a launch pad for many great NBA careers and which, until this year, was also contested by NBA teams (last year the LA Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks all played).

Poland head coach Andrej Urlep
Andrej Urlep coached Poland to a 4-2 record in the qualifying round last September.
Now in its 38th year, the SPL is a showcase of talent and every NBA team has participated in it at some point.

Even without the NBA sides competing in 2007, there will be numerous current and former NBA, D-League, CBA, ABA and overseas pro players involved.

Poland are the only national team playing in the SPL, which will give them an exclusive experience and hopefully a much-needed edge over their EuroBasket rivals.

A spokesperson from the Polish Federation told PA Sport: "The Summer Pro League will be part of the preparation (for EuroBasket) and we are counting on qualification to the next stage.

"But it won't be easy.

"We are in a tough group and lately we haven't had much success against France.

"But they might crack, and our coach is good so we are confident.

"Ten years ago we finished seventh in Spain, so let's hope that's a good sign."

While they did do well a decade ago, that was also the last time they qualified for the EuroBasket, and they will be hoping for a similar or better achievement in September to build momentum and interest for 2009, when they host the EuroBasket for the first time since 1963.

Poland have a number of players with experience of the NBA or top European leagues, including Adam Wojcik, Michal Chylinski and Michal Ignerski, who know Spain well from their time at Unicaja Malaga and CSF Sevilla.

While this may be the last tournament for veterans like Wojcik, Jeff Nordgaard and Andrzej Pluta, the likes of Chylinski and Ignerski, and talented playmaker Lucasz Koszarek will all be reaching their peak in 2009 when they will get the chance to compete on home soil.

There are also several players currently trying to impress in the Under-20 European Championships Division B, also being hosted in Poland, with teenager Kamil Pietras scoring well.

The federation spokesperson added: "We don't know if any of the Under-20 players will make it into the senior squad.

"We are counting on them to qualify to Division A, and we will wait and see the results of the competition."

Poland return from the US on July 16, and then will train in Slovenia for two weeks, before mini tournaments in Sardinia and Turkey.

They will contest Group D of the EuroBasket along with Italy, Slovenia and France.

Poland's pre-EuroBasket schedule:

June 20-July 2: Training camp in Wloclawku (Poland) July 3-15: Summer Pro League in California (USA)
July 25-26: Medical check-up in Warsaw (Poland)
July 27-August 10: Training in Slovenia
August 11-15: Training camp in Wloszech (Poland)
August 16-20: Tournament in Sardinia
August 21-27: Three friendly games in Istanbul (vs Turkey, Croatia, Latvia)
August 29-31: Training camp in Warsaw (Poland)
September 3-16: EuroBasket in Spain


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