No Room For Complacency

12.04.2012

PAULBALL

Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various websites and publications across Europe.

If you'd like to contact Paul you can e-mail him at paulballnilsen@gmail.com


Who would be a national team coach? Right now it's probably the worst time of year, as they somehow try to plan how to cook up a summer storm but without knowing whether they will have all the ingredients needed to attain success.

In fact, I would guess that around 90% of national team coaches this summer won't have a full quota of players to choose from and already know this after a season which seems to have been sadly littered with even more injuries than usual.

EuroBasket 2011 champions Russia are one of six teams - the top five in Poland plus Olympic Games hosts Great Britain -that do not have to worry about securing a place in France in 2013

To add to their feelings of frustration, many will still be waiting anxiously due to a dreaded cocktail of further injuries sustained during the intensity of domestic league play-offs, players confirming they favour the lure of WNBA court-time, others choosing to retire from national team duty altogether and those who simply decide to rest and take the summer off.

In the cut and thrust world of women's basketball, which truly is a year-round slog for the players, it's a tough situation for all concerned.

Each spring and early summer we see the agony of choice for many players, the torn priorities and huge dilemmas which are thrown up. In many cases, unenviable choices between personal gain and wider sacrifices for their respective nations arise.

It's isn't easy and while I am a strong advocate of all players putting their national team first, I suppose my standpoint has sadly become little more than a romantic notion in the modern sporting environment.

As the respective national team coaches sit with their preliminary rosters in front of them with their phone in one hand and a pen to cross off names in the other, it's a juggling act of epic proportions for many of them.

Indeed for those who also have club teams still playing it's even more tricky, since in reality they should have one eye on their summer programme already.

Interestingly, there will be no second bite of the cherry for anyone ahead of EuroBasket Women in France.

There will be no Additional Qualifying Round with a beautifully simplistic mission ahead for every nation - finish in the top two spots of your five-team group and punch your ticket. You must get it right first time.

The other beauty of the months we have ahead is that whoever is on the floor for each team, it absolutely looks to be a royal battle and in some cases an all-out dogfight to make it to France.

Looking at some of the groups, the overwhelming sensation is that in many cases, three just does not go into two.

Croatia celebrations - Head Coach Stipe Bralic
Croatia, against all odds, finished in fifth place at EuroBasket Women last summer and clinched the last automatic qualification spot for the 2013 edition

Consequently, a few relatively esteemed women's basketball nations could be left bitterly disappointed.

And, when you throw in the element of surprise since an ‘underdog' or two will inevitably emerge and make life tough, it looks a wholly unpredictable qualifying round.

On the topic of which, it's terrific to see those nations who had been in the old Division B now fighting with the ‘elite' nations for a spot at the big table. I am waiting for one of those teams to hand us a fairytale story.

But, even if they don't manage it this time around, the experience of playing (and even if it means losing heavily) will benefit the former Division B nations in the medium to long term.

This also spells bad news for the more prestigious nations that dare to take their foot off the gas and become complacent or have the misfortune to lose a disproportionate amount of their players each summer for the reasons outlined earlier.

The gap between those traditional participants at major tournaments and some of the ambitious and growing nations (particularly those with good young players) could be about to close - something which fills me with immense excitement.

For I am confident that EuroBasket Women 2013 in France will be the best in history for a multitude of reasons but particularly because of the carefully chosen venues and locations.

To miss out on what I am absolutely certain will be a wondeful experience, would be a crushing blow and this is why I feel there will be a few national team coaches left exasperated at what happens in coming weeks.

The message is very clear at this stage - failing to get your best players onto the floor this summer could prove fatal.

You have been warned.


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