Ukrainian Basketball Officials Comment On Draw

13 February 2006

Ukraine are confident of making it to next year's EuroBasket after avoiding a couple of giants in Saturday's qualifying draw in Madrid.

The national side, which failed to win a game at EuroBasket 2005, will have to finish among the top two in Group A with Bulgaria, Sweden and Poland also in the pool.

"We are lucky to avoid the Russians and Croatians," said the sport director of the national teams, Gennadi Zaschuk.

"I treat Ukraine and Bulgaria as favourites. Bulgaria will be a hard challenge for us taking into account their performance in EuroBasket 2005," the former national team coach said.

Ukraine will open the qualifying round on August 31 at Bulgaria.

They have defeated Bulgaria in qualifying tournaments in 1997 and 2003 when they won three of the four meetings.

But the Bulgarians did have some fine moments last year, including  taking Turkey to overtime before losing.

"We are very familiar with Bulgaria and know well what they are capable of," Ukraine Basketball Federation vice-president Alexander Volkov said.

"I think that only Sweden doesn't really fit into our group," Volkov added. "The other three teams seem to be evenly matched."

"Poland is more popular for their club basketball, however, I have no doubts that this team will be highly motivated, especially considering the fact that they will be hosting Eurobasket 2009." 

One of the questions looming over Ukrainian basketball is their coaching vacancy.

"The most vital thing for us is to form a new squad and appoint a head coach," said Ukraine Basketball Federation president Zurab Khromaev.

"I don't have an answer yet," said Volkov. "But hardly anyone will want to be in the shoes of the new coach. The players that represent our country still haven't got any financial support from the state and it seems to me that it's already time to bring up the issue."
"Ukrainian top sport officials need to meet and discuss the goals and priorities of the national team. Sponsors always ask for some results in return for their investments. And as currently there's almost no investments whatsoever, the matter needs to be resolved before someone sets unrealistic expectations with minimum funding."
There have been numerous rumors about hiring a foreign coach for the national team, but, according to Volkov, there's almost no chance it will happen.
"Mainly because of these financial problems we are not even close to considering an expat coach and quite possibly this matter will not even be brought up."




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