Ukraine are getting ready for EuroBasket 2009 qualifying games against Turkey, Belgium and France under a cloud after five players were instructed by their clubs not to report for national team duty.
No explanation was given by the sides, who took the Ukraine Federation and national team boss Valentyn Melnychuk by surprise.
Center Hryhori Khizhniak, who served as team captain at the Mechel Cup where Ukraine had played Russia, Serbia and Latvia, along with forwards Victor Kobzistiy and Maxim Kornienko, guard Olexandr Panchenko (all from Dnipro, Dnipropetrovsk) and veteran forward Yaroslav Zubritskiy (Politekhnika-Galychyna, Lviv) were no-shows for the training camp in Pusha-Vodytsya.
"I feel sorry for the players that were called off," Melnychuk said. "They had been practicing with us all summer and had a great chance to grow by playing in high-level international games."
Ihor Silkovskiy, Artem Shvets and Maxim Ivshin were among those called up to replace the withdrawals, but their shape as well as the knowledge of set plays leaves much to be desired.
"Instead of moving on, we suffered a pretty bad setback and once again have to work on the things we already passed in Yuzhney," Melnychuk said.
"We are learning our offensive and defensive sets and our friendly game against Pulsar showed that we have a lot of problems.
"Our teamwork, though, is already improving and we managed to run the floor with efficiency. We don't have much time left, but thank God all the players are treating their job very seriously, which gives me hope the team will be fine."
A positive thing for Melnychuk is the return of Artur Drozdov and Serhiy Lishchuk, who took two months off to deal with injuries.
Olexandr Kolchenko and Serhiy Gladyr, who are currently with the Under-20 team in Riga, Latvia, and NBA player Kyrylo Fesenko should all eventually join the squad.