Sweden have designs on winning promotion back to EuroBasket Division A and one player national team boss Kostas Flevarakis will be leaning heavily on is Martin Ringström, a member of his Greek side PAOK.
The 2.04m forward averaged almost 11 points and more than five rebounds per game in the last qualifying campaign but wasn't able to fire the Swedes into the finals, and they also suffered relegation to Division B.
Ringström, who turns 28 on Tuesday, gave this interview to Basketball World News on behalf of FIBA Europe.
FIBA Europe: Hi Martin. Tell us how you found your way to Greece to play for PAOK and what that experience has been like for you.
Martin Ringström: Kostas Flevarakis knows me from the national team, where he's the head coach, so he contacted me when he became coach of PAOK and I made a deal with my old team so I could leave ASAP. It's a good experience to play against some of the best teams in Europe and it has developed my game a lot. This is the level I want to play at and it fits with my game. You have to go out and give everything every game. Focus, focus and focus!
FIBA Europe: Is the competitiveness of the Greek league what you expected? Also, what can you tell me about the passion of the fans in Greece?
Martin Ringström: It's a tough league and after watching games on TV before I came, I knew pretty well the standard of the Greek league. They have a lot of teams represented in Euroleague and that says a lot about the standard of the league. Sport is very big in Greece and especially basketball, the fans are very devoted to their team and during games the atmosphere is great. Here they say "I am PAOK" not I cheer for PAOK. This is how serious it is! But I love it!
FIBA Europe: Martin, last summer did not go as you had hoped with Sweden. The national team was relegated to Division B, but there were certainly periods of play when the national team looked good. What are your thoughts looking back to that qualifying campaign?
Martin Ringström: Of course I'm disappointed that the team did not do better last summer. We beat Lithuania in Lithuania. That was a good win! I believe we can learn from last summer's mistakes and play much better this coming summer.
FIBA Europe: Sweden have been drawn in Group C of Division B. Can you confirm that you will be with the squad, and what do you think about the teams you will play - Slovakia, Georgia, Ireland and Luxembourg?
Martin Ringström: It's an honor to represent your country so the national team is always a yes for me. I think it's one of the better groups so it's gonna be tough games, but I hope we come out victorious from this battle.
FIBA Europe: We understand there is a lot of optimism within the Sweden federation because of the strong youth teams. Can we expect to see a Swedish team that is among the best in Europe in the near future?
Martin Ringström: We are still a small country basketball and population wise but I think Sweden is going surprise a lot of people with wins against big-name countries, and maybe become among the top teams in Europe. We have a strong tradition of team sports and we make good results in other sports so hopefully we will see better results for the Swedish basketball national teams. There are some really good youth players coming in the future.