Estonia step up preparations

21 July 2015

14. Kristjan Kangur (Estonia)
Kristjan Kangur will be Estonia's captain at EuroBasket 2015

Kristjan Kangur could be forgiven if he feared the moment might never happen.

That moment is coming up, though, a time when he will don the Estonia jersey as the national team captain and jog onto the floor to be introduced to the crowd in Riga, Latvia, in a EuroBasket Final Round for the first time in his career.

Kangur, one of the best known Estonia players for the past several years, says the occasion will be one of the most significant that he has lived in basketball.

"For all of us, it's a new experience and a new situation," he said.

Estonia made to the EuroBasket by winning the First Qualification Round in 2013. Beaten 58-55 at Bulgaria in the first game of the Final tie, the Estonians struck back with a vengeance back in Tallinn, winning 61-49. Kangur had eight points and six rebounds in that triumph.

Estonia last made an appearance in the Final Round of EuroBasket in 2001, when the tournament was staged in Turkey.

So far, so good when it comes to Estonia's preparations. Coach Tiit Sokk, a player in the famous Soviet Union side that won the Olympic title in 1988 who later suited up for Estonia after their independence, is keeping his fingers crossed that everyone remains healthy.

The Estonians will square off against fellow Baltic sides Lithuania and Latvia in Group D, along with Belgium, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

"Fortunately all of the players are in good condition and there are no crucial injuries," he said.

So what are the chances of Estonia? Jaak Salumets, the former national team head coach and a member of the Soviet side that finished third at the EuroBasket in 1973, says there is one significant hurdle for the team to clear. Estonia must be able to win without a giant center.

He said: "The biggest minus is that we don't have a number five, big men inside the perimeter," he said.

"The way the team was able play the last two years was a remarkable, positive step."

Salumets marvels as the attitude the Estonia players have shown the past few years, a combative spirit that has helped Estonia make it back to the Final Round.

"There is a spirit of competition," he said.

"There is a change that has clearly taken place, men fighting to the end in every situation."

Estonia have had a couple of scrimmage games against Denmark's B team in recent days. On 1 and 2 August, the team will face Russia in Moscow. Then 14-16 August, they will be in Tbilisi to take part in a tournament with games against hosts Georgia, Italy and Latvia.

Estonia will host the Tallinn Cup 20-22 August and go up against Iceland, the Philippines and the Netherlands. Then 26-28 August, the Baltic side will travel to Zagreb and meet Bosnia and Herzegovina (26 August), hosts Croatia (27 August) and Israel (28 August).

Estonia's preliminary EuroBasket roster: Tanel Sokk (Tartu Rock, EST); Sten Sokk (Dynamo Moscow, RUS); Rain Veideman (Kalev/Cramo, EST); Martin Dorbek (Kalev Cramo, EST); Gert Dorbek (Tartu Rock, EST); Gregor Arbet (Kalev Cramo, EST); Tanel Kurbas (Tartu Rock, EST); Erik Keedus (Kalev Cramo, EST); Kristjan Kangur (Varese, ITA); Indrek Kajupank (Kalev Cramo, EST); Siim-Sander Vene (Kaunas, LTU); Kristjan Kitsing (Parnu, EST); Joosep Toome (Tartu Rock, EST); Timo Eichfuss (Tartu Rock, EST); Janar Talts (Tartu Rock, EST); Rain Raadik (Pointe-Noire, FRA); Reinar Hallik (Tarvas Rakvere, EST) 

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