Iceland Return With Fresh Challenge

21 June 2012

Jon Stefansson - Iceland
Shooting guard Jon Stefansson will carry a lot of the offensive weight on his shoulders in the Qualification Round

Iceland's last EuroBasket Division B campaign, in 2009, was not deemed successful in that they fell short of clinching promotion to the top flight of European basketball.

Nonetheless, the Nordic nation defeated Denmark twice and registered an impressive home win over the Netherlands to finish with three victories in eight group games.

An outstanding Montenegro side that featured Nikola Pekovic went on to top that group undefeated.

Flash forward three years and the stakes are now considerably higher for Iceland.

Starting 14 August, the national team is not embarking on a campaign to earn promotion, but to secure a place in the 24-team EuroBasket 2013.

The Division A and B system is now defunct and everyone is given a fair chance of earning a ticket to the big stage.

Iceland coach Peter Öqvist and his team are aware of the challenge.

The Swedish tactician, who is also coaching Sundsvall Dragons in his native country, has called 21 players to the preliminary squad.

A first training camp last weekend marked the start of their preparations for the difficult task that lays ahead.

Öqvist's selection includes three new faces in the senior squad, Arni Ragnarsson, Gudmundur Jonsson and Justin Shouse.

Seven of the players that participated in the 2009 Division B campaign are returning, with CAI Zaragoza's Jon Stefansson the most prominent name among them.

The experienced shooting guard is coming off an excellent season in the Spanish Liga Endesa and will be the go-to player for his national team in this Qualification Round.

Iceland are in Group A along with old acquaintances Montenegro, as well as Serbia, Estonia, the Slovak Republic and Israel.

Their opening game is against Serbia at home in Reykjavik.

Iceland preliminary squad: Jon Arnor Stefansson, Haukur Helgi Palsson, Logi Gunnarsson, Helgi Magnusson, Hlynur Baeringsson, Jakob Sigurdarson, Hordur Axel Vilhjalmsson, Pavel Ermolinskij, Sigurdur Gunnar Thorsteinsson, Brynjar Þor Bjornsson, Johann Arni Olafsson, Finnur Atli Magnusson, Fannar Helgason, Axel Karason, Arni Ragnarsson, Aegir Steinarsson, Justin Shouse, Thorleifur Olafsson, Magnus Thor Gunnarsson, Jon Olafur Jonsson and Gudmundur Jonsson.


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