By David Hein
Despite their 89-78 loss to Lithuania at the 2005 EuroBasket, Russian coach Sergey Babkov and point guard JR Holden see a promising future for Russian basketball.
"Look at Andrei Kirilenko, Sergey Monya, Victor Khryapa. These guys are all really young. And they have a great future," said Holden, an American naturalised Russian who was playing in his first international tournament for the Russian national team.
Kirilenko, who didn't play in the Lithuania game because of a broken nose, is 24 years old. Monya is 22 and Khryapa is 23. And guard Vitaly Fridzon is just 19.
While Babkov said the team has promise because of its youth, the inexperience that comes with it ended up hurting Russia at times in the tournament, and Friday's game was a perfect example of this.
|Vitaly Fridzon is just 19|
"I wonder if the team was motivated enough to play for fifth and sixth place," the coach said.
A problem for Babkov on Friday was that he was missing Kirilenko, who had surgery to repair a broken nose suffered in the fourth quarter of the game against Greece.
"He's one of the best players in the world - even in American basektball," the coach said. "He makes everybody play better on defense."
"We missed him in the middle," Holden said. "He's a great shot blocker, and he gives us so much good defense."
He added: "How's Germany without (Dirk) Nowitzki. Who knows? But we played a hard game without the best player on our team."
Once again, the Russians lived and died by their outside shooting.
"On offense, we don't have a dominant big man, so if we don't shoot well we're going to struggle," Holden said.
Babkov added that another major factor in determining success or failure at a tournament like this is the state of mind of his players.
"What I learned from this event? That a lot depends on the moral preparation of the players."
When asked if he would stay on as national team coach, Babkov said: "Everything depends on the decision of the president of the Russian Baseketball Federation. But I want to stay on with the national team."