|24 July 2007|
Poland coach Andrej Urlep wants his side to use September's EuroBasket to raise the profile of basketball in the country.
They may be in one of the tournament's toughest groups, are without their big hope in NBA star Marcin Gorat and are expected to play in front of few of their own fans in Spain, but Urlep believes they can have a successful competition.
This is the first time in a decade that Poland have qualified for Europe's premier basketball competition, and their reward was a group containing 1999 champions Italy, as well as 2005 bronze medallists France and sixth-placed Slovenia.
Urlep told PA Sport: "The main goal for us is to get out of the group. We have a tough group and it will be really hard, but we believe that we can do it.
"It's quite far from Poland so we don't expect a lot of Polish fans.
Basketball hasn't reached the level of volleyball or soccer in Poland, but we hope that some fans will get there and give us some support."
It was hoped that Gorat, a former Phoenix Suns center recently signed by the Orlando Magic, might bring his talents to the squad, but he is focusing on his NBA career instead.
Urlep said: "Gorat will not be playing because he chose to train in the NBA for Orlando, so for us the key thing is the team.
"Also, we don't have a lot of offensive options to have that immediate potential so we have to compensate that with a team effort."
Despite the setbacks, Urlep has done what few other teams would have considered and taken his team across to America to train, where they competed in the Summer Pro League in California, a tournament which has been a launchpad for many great NBA careers.
"It was a good experience for us," the coach added. "We had a bit of a problem because we were playing by the NBA rules so that took quite a big adjustment.
"But we learnt quite a lot and we were together a lot so hopefully we will get some benefit out of that for EuroBasket.
"We are starting (our training) on Thursday with medical checks and then from Saturday we start our camp in Slovenia.
"Then we go to Switzerland to play in a tournament, then Italy, then Turkey and from there to Spain."