|Sasha Kaun - Russia|
By David Hein
Russia center Sasha Kaun has hinted that he may need a rest this summer after a long couple of years but believes his country features some strong young talent ready to take a big role.
Kaun helped Russia qualify for the 2012 Olympics and then averaged 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds as Russia captured the bronze medal at the London Games.
"It was definitely a blast, probably something I will remember for the rest of my life, right up there with my national championship in the NCAA," said Kaun of the bronze medal, referring back to his NCAA title with the University of Kansas in 2008.
"I know we didn't win the gold medal but a bronze medal is just as sweet, especially for what the team had done last summer. We had to go through qualifications and win that and get to the Olympics. It was a long journey, but it was well rewarded in the end. It was a lot of fun and I am very grateful that I had that opportunity."
"He called me one time just to introduce himself and that's about it," said Kaun.
The 27-year-old Tomsk native said he really hasn't thought much about EuroBasket 2013. But he did hint that he may not show up in Slovenia, where Russia have been drawn into Group D with Italy, Greece, Sweden, Finland and Turkey. Despite playing at the Olympics and the World Championship, Kaun is yet to play in a European Championship.
"Right now I'm in the season and I'm just trying to focus on that. When the time comes, I'll see how I feel and see what's going on because it's been a long couple years. Last year [club season] and then the summer and now this year. My body is definitely wearing down. So, we'll see," said Kaun, who missed EuroBasket 2011 with minor groin surgery.
Kaun said that even if Russia did not have Andrei Kirilenko and other players, the 2011 bronze medalists still have options, especially 19-year-old Sergey Karasev of Eurocup team Triumph Lyubertsy and 20-year-old Dmitry Kulagin of EuroChallenge side Krasnye Krylia Samara.
"I think that's something that the coach has to be thinking about as well. We have a lot of good players that are getting older right now. If [Katsikaris] wants to build a team for the future, he has to figure out how to attract the younger players and put them in the rotation and get comfortable with them and have them be comfortable around the team," said Kaun.
"I think that's something that would be good for everybody. We do have a lot of good talent that we can build on."
Kaun meanwhile said his club CSKA still has high expectations for this season.
"We definitely want make the Euroleague Final Four. That's the number one goal right now. We'll have other goals once we accomplish that goal. This club is all about winning and that's what we [have] got to do," said Kaun, who lost in the Euroleague final last season with CSKA against Olympiacos - making the Olympic bronze medal all the sweeter for the center.