|George Tsintsadze is a big guard who likes to share the ball|
Georgia: Not Just Here To Make Up Numbers
Georgia arrive at their second EuroBasket with something that all veteran participants board the plane with - expectations.
If, in the first time round in 2011, everybody was happy just to be there and make a worthy showing, the performances they then went on to produce as they came within a whisker of the quarter-finals before star Zaza Pachulia got injured, means heightened expectations come with them to Slovenia for this foray.
Two things to keep in mind: In 2011 Georgia was in what was arguably the easiest First Round group in the tournament. This time the draw is not as welcoming as the team of coach Kokoskov will play in Celje with hosts Slovenia, reigning champs Spain and a strong Croatian team. Poland and the Czech Republic are targeted as the opponents Georgia must tame and then upset one big hitter to claim third spot and make another visit to the Second Round. Anything above that will be great.
The second thing that has changed from two years ago: Pachulia, as well as Georgia's second NBA player - Tornike Shengelia - will be missing due to injury. Without those two the challenge is far bigger.
Nevertheless, Georgia will present a roster that is sure to be competitive. Manu Markoishvili is one of the most versatile wing players in this championship, arriving here after winning a rare Turkish league title with Galatasaray. Forward Viktor Sanikidze, who had a big performance two years ago, made the jump to Euroleague level himself this season with Montepaschi Siena and later won the Italian championship title in style.
It does not stop there either. Giorgi Shermadini, who will play a much bigger role due to Pachulia's absence, also ended up with a title - the most prestigious of them all - the Euroleague crown he won with Olympiacos Piraeus.
This trio will carry Georgia and be the face of its success or failure. Joining them is newcomer Ricky Hickman from Maccabi. This will be his first performance with the team and after making big jumps in each of the last three seasons - from Finland to MVP and champ of Italy's Lega Due, and then on to the play-offs of Italy's top flight followed by a great debut Euroleague season - the question now is if he will transform into the 2013 edition of Bo McCalebb - someone that fits perfectly as the missing piece of a team and provides a great upgrade.
Nikoloz Tskitishvili and George Tsintsadze will lead the second unit as the first (2.12m) could help form one of the tallest line-ups in the championship and the latter is a big guard that shares the ball relatively well. The rest of the roster will provide toughness, floor diving, hustle, defence and bring the Georgian feisty spirit to the floor in hope any other night one of them will be able to step up and be the joker to decide a game.
Georgia will fight to make the Second Round again and should be satisfied once there. Missing two key players puts a hurdle in front of their eyes, but other than great food and hospitality, Georgia also made its name for running through walls when there is a tough challenge ahead.