|08 September 2013|
|Young Russian players like Dmitry Khvostov (right) can undoubtedly carry Russia in the future but still require time to mature |
By David Hein
Expectations were mixed for Russia coming to EuroBasket 2013. The great basketball nation had taken bronze at EuroBasket 2011 and the 2012 Olympics.
Despite a number of no-shows, there was a good mix of veteran leadership and young, emerging Russian talent in Slovenia.
That mix apparently still needs some more seasoning and experience as Russia's hopes of maintaining a high level with a new generation were left unfulfilled with three losses in the first three games in Group D in Koper.
"We have a new team and nothing has changed for us. We cannot panic. We will play [the last two games against Finland and Turkey] for us to get experience," said Russia coach Vasiliy Karasev.
"We have to work hard, the coaches and the players."
Sure Andrei Kirilenko, Viktor Khryapa, Sasha Kaun and Timofey Mozgov were all missing, as well as coach David Blatt. Then there was the ordeal with Blatt successor Fotis Katsikaris being forced out just weeks before EuroBasket was to start.
New in charge of course is Karasev, who was head coach at Triumph Lyubertsy for the first year in 2012-13 following a superstar career.
"I have played in all of these tournaments. But now I am coach. Everything is new," said Karasev.
"Every game you play with full concentration because if you lose one game you lose everything. During the club season you can lose one game but here every game is so important."
It's not that Russia had a total make-over. They still have Aleksey Shved, Sergey Monya, Vitaly Fridzon, Anton Ponkrashov, Semen Antonov, Evgeny Voronov, Dmitry Khvostov and Sergey Karasev who have Olympic hardware back home.
The Russians however have to date been unable to get consistent production from the next young leaders in the team - the 19-year-old Sergey Karasev and 21-year-old Dmitry Kulagin, while Shved has been productive (16.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists) but also struggled at times not having more top level weapons (45% shooting and 3.7 turnovers).
"The young players showed that they don't have the experience on offence. They showed they have the power on defence, but we don't have the experience on offence, especially against a team like Greece," said coach Karasev.
"Right now we have a new coaching staff and new guys. We know we cannot play 100% how we played before. But we have four more years before the Olympics. We are still trying to win right now. But we have a lot of time," added Shved.
This tournament will definitely provide the Russian team with a great learning experience for the future.