BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Mr do-it-all Victor Khryapa will be hard to replace for Russia |
A week before the end of 2013, the Russian senior national team's year to forget came full circle with Victor Khryapa announcing his decision to retire from international duty.
Khryapa's announcement was received in Russia as the confirmation of a foretold decision rather than as a shock, as the versatile 31-year-old forward had pulled out of EuroBasket 2013 and had hinted on occasions that the 2012 London Olympics was his last tournament with the national team.
However, it came ten months after the other Russian emblematic player of the modern age, Andrei Kirilenko, had also retired from the national team, and three months after Russia's highly disappointing campaign in last September's EuroBasket.
"I have decided to terminate my career in the national team," Khryapa told news agency R-Sport on Monday.
"We have already talked with (newly installed Russia head coach) Evgeny Pashutin and he is aware of the decision.
"I first played with the [senior national] team in 2002, at the World Championship in Indianapolis and I had received my first call-up in 2000, to play in a a qualifying tournament.
"I remember all the things that have happened since then, all those wonderful years.
"I wish the same success to the next generation and I thank everyone on the team for all the good times."
The charismatic Khryapa can play at both forward positions and was always Russia's glue-player, whose enormous contribution was not accurately enough reflected in his stat lines.
In tandem with Kirilenko, he was instrumental in Russian basketball's finest hour since the break-up of the Soviet Union, an against-the-odds win over hosts Spain in the big final of EuroBasket 2007, and was included in the All-Tournament Team.
Khryapa also led the national team to their other two biggest moments during the 21st century, the bronze medals at EuroBasket 2011 and in the London Olympics.
Russia and coach Pashutin however knew the time was approaching fast that they would have to plan out a national team without Khryapa, and have been looking at alternatives.
"Victor was the brightest player and a wonderful person in this team," Pashutin commented.
"I would like to wish him the best of luck in his future life and club career.
"[Sergey] Monya will help the team to cope with this period of transition, without Khryapa and Kirilenko.
"Monya is an experienced player, our captain, and is eager to play in the team.
"In general, Khryapa position will be covered by various candidates, as besides Monya we also have Andrey Vorontsevich, Semen Antonov and Andrey Zubkov."
At club level, Khryapa has won the 2008 Euroleague title as well as two VTB United league titles and seven Russian national championship crowns, all with Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow.
He was named Euroleague's best defender in 2010 and voted in the All-Euroleague team both in 2010 and 2013.
Khryapa is the captain of CSKA, who are looking to add another Euroleague crown and VTB league title to their extensive trophy case this season.