GB's Opponents at Eurobasket: Group A Preview -

GB’s Opponents at Eurobasket: Group A Preview

With Eurobasket 2013 tipping off later today, we got in European basketball aficionado, George Rowland (@georgerowland), to give us the low down on GB’s opponents in Group A! Over to George…


Coach: Vincent Collet
Squad: Tony Parker, Thomas Heurtel, Nando De Colo, Antoine Diot, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Mickael Gelabale, Joffrey Lauvergne, Charles Kahudi, Florent Pietrus, Alexis Ajinca, Johan Petro.
Notable Absentees: Joakim Noah, Kevin Seraphin, Ronny Turiaf, Rudy Gobert, Ali Traore, Mickael Pietrus

State of the Team
France head into Eurobasket hoping to go one win further than 2011, where they fell in the final to Spain, but they’ll have to do it without 5 of their top 7 players at the centre position, including NBA players Joakim Noah, Kevin Seraphin and Ronny Turiaf. The scoring load for France will likely fall on two familiar names for NBA fans, Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum, who will likely be paired along with Nando De Colo, Boris Diaw and Alexis Ajinca in the starting 5.

Off the bench the French have an incredibly strong roster with NBA players (Gelabale, Petro), Euroleague veterans (Pietrus, Kahudi) and young players on top European teams (Heurtel, Diot, Lauvergne). A player of note for GB fans to watch is Point Guard Thomas Heurtel, a pass first pick and roll player who excelled playing for Laboral Kutxa last year and will be playing ahead of Devon van Oostrum there this year.

Under the radar guy to watch
Joffrey Lauvergne: The young big man was taken in the back end of this years draft by Memphis and really came into his own towards the end of the year player for Serbian team Partizan Belgrade, with Frances injury problems up front we could see Lauvergne used at both 4 and 5 positions, he can step out and hit jump shots out to three point range but can also handle himself around the basket which could provide a change from Petrovic and Ajinca inside.


Coach: Eddy Casteels
Squad: Jonathan Tabu, Sam van Rossum, Axel Hervelle, Wen Mukubu, Christophe Beghin, Maxime De Zeeuw, Yannick Driesen, Sacha Massot, Roel Moors, Guy Muya, Jean-Marc Mwema, Quentin Serron
Notable Absentees: Matt Lojeski, DJ Mbenga

State of the Team
Belgium come into the tournament with a strong core but with no natural successor to two time Euroleague champion Tomas Van Den Spiegel (a great follow on twitter if you’re into European hoops by the way @tomasvds) at the centre position they do have a fairly glaring hole. Despite this the rest of their starting five will all be playing at top level European teams next year with Sam Van Rossum (Valencia), Jonathan Tabu (CAI Zaragoza) and Axel Hervelle (Bilbao Basket) in Spain. Tabu and Van Rossum will likely share ball handling abilities in the back-court, with Van Rossum playing the Starsky (that’s the in control one for those of you who don’t get the reference) to Tabu’s Hutch (again the more maverick of the pair, for those of you who missed the pop culture reference).

At the forward spots we would have seen versatile scorer Matt Lojeski paired up with a classic ‘glue’ player in Hervelle, but with Lojeski pulling out with a thigh injury we will most likely see the super athletic Wen Mukubu starting in his spot.

At the 5 spot there will be Christophe Beghin of Belgian Eurocup team Spirou Charleroi and Yannick Driesen of Antwerp. As for a prediction Belgium would have had a solid chance of advancing past the group stages if Lojeski were fit, but without him their chances seem to have been dashed a little, but with Germany’s poor form in the run up, it still could be a distinct possibility that they advance ahead of them.

Under the radar guy to watch
Wen Mukubu: Mukubu is a super athletic combo forward who, after graduating from UAB in 2007 has bounced around Europe before spending the past two seasons playing for Liege in Belgium, last season he put up numbers of 16.5 PPG and 5.9 RPG while shooting almost 37% from three point range. Mukubu has now signed for top level Belgian team Spirou Charleroi and looks likely to be the starter given the injury that Matt Lojeski sustained in warm ups.


Coach: Mike Fratello
Squad: Vyacheslav Kravstov, Eugene ‘Pooh’ Jeter, Artur Drozdov, Oleksandr Lypovyy, Sergiy Gladyr, Dmytro Gliebov, Maxym Kornienko, Olexandr Mishula, Kyryl Natyazhko, Artem Pustovyi, Maksym Pustozvonov, Leonids Stefanyshyn, Stanislav Timofeyenko, Dmytro Zabirchenko, Ihor Zaytsev.
Notable Absentees: Sergey Lischouk, Oleksiy Pecherov, Kyrylo Fesenko, Oleksiy Len

State of the Team
The majority of this Ukraine team is made up from players in their domestic league, which boasts one Euroleague (BC Budivelnyk Kiev) and one Eurocup (BC Khimik) team among their ranks, with another team, BC Azovmash also being fairly strong. They also boast centre Slava Kravstov who sent last year with the Detroit Pistons before being traded to Milwaukee in the Brandon Jennings sign and trade and Point Guard Pooh Jeter, formerly of the Sacramento Kings who spent last year playing in China and averaging 25 points per game while doing so, they also have Hawks draftee Sergiy Gladyr who spent last year in the ACB with Fuenlabrada and former University of Arizona centre Kyryl Natyazhko, who is now playing for Azovmash.

Coach Mike Fratello might also be familiar for the older NBA fans out there, after being one of the most successful coaches in recent history over the pond. Ukraine are probably a fairly long outside shot to make it past the initial group stages but with Germany in poor form and Belgium facing some injury issues it would not be beyond the realms of possibility, however it would probably rely on some superb shooting performances from their back court duo of Jeter and Gladyr.

Under the radar guy to watch
Oleksandr Lypovyy: You might recognise Lypovyy’s name if you followed Hoopsfix’s coverage of the Adidas EuroCamp in Treviso (see video above), Lypovyy was named MVP of the Camp in 2012 and was one of the top prospects at this years camp. Although he wasn’t drafted remains one of the top young players in Europe, and has spent the last few years playing for BC Donetsk, one of the top Ukranian teams. A 6’7″ guard capable of handling the point Lypovyy will also spend time at the 2 and the 3 given his defensive versatility, check out Sam’s highlight tape from EuroCamp 2012 if you want to see more.


Coach: Arie Shivek
Squad: Yogev Ohayon, Yotam Halperin, Omri Casspi, Lior Eliyahu, Alex Tyus, Yaniv Green, Nitzan Hanochi, Elishay Kadir, Ido Kozikaro, Raviv Limonad, Afik Nissim, Guy Pnini.
Notable Absentees: Gal Mekel

State of the Team
Israel come into the tournament with only new Dallas Maverick Gal Mekel missing, with Houston Rockets forward Omri Casspi making his long awaited return to the national team. Their starting five boasts significant European experience, with forward Lior Eliyahu and point guard Yogev Ohayon spending last year with Euroleague playoff team Maccabi Tel Aviv, centre Alex Tyus spent last year with Pallacanestro Cantù and will move to Maccabi Tel Aviv next year and finally shooting guard Yotam Halperin spent last year with Bayern Munich and will join Hapoel Jerusalem.

The Israelis also have some strong options off the bench in shooter Guy Pnini and veteran centre Yaniv Green, which will give them the flexibility to play a small ball lineup with Pnini playing the four, as he sometimes does for Maccabi Tel Aviv. They should be aiming to comfortably get into the second round and given that they’ll be on the ‘weaker’ side of the draw they have a good chance to advance to the quarter finals, but it is unlikely that they’ll do much damage further than that.

Under the radar guy to watch
Lior Eliyahu: Eliyahu had an injury plagued season for Maccabi Tel Aviv last year with knee issues bothering him, and there have been rumours about his departure from the team. Despite his poor season he will be one of the leading players for Israel and is one of the most unique and esoteric offensive basketball players in the world on his day and should hopefully form a great forward combination with Omri Casspi.


Coach: Frank Menz
Squad: Heiko Schaffartzik, Tibor Pleiß, Robin Benzing, Per Günther, Lucca Staiger, Maik Zirbes, Niels Giffey, Bastian Doreth, Alex King, Philip Zwiener, Andreas Seiferth, Karsten Tadda
Notable Absentees: Chris Kaman, Dirk Nowitzki, Jan Jagla, Dennis Schroeder, Elias Harris, Tim Ohlbrecht

State of the Team
The Germans are missing four of their would be starting five in NBA players Chris Kaman, Dirk Nowitzki, and Elias Harris as well as shooting 7 footer Jan Jagla. The team has struggled in their warm ups, but can still boast some strong players from across Europe and the USA with Tibor Pleiß playing in Spain, Niels Giffey playing in the NCAA for UConn and the rest of the squad playing domestically in the Bundesliga, with Karsten Tadda and Maik Zirbes playing for champions Brose Baskets Bamberg and Heiko Schaffartzik, Robin Benzing and Lucca Staiger playing for 2013-14 Euroleague newcomers Bayern Munich.

The Germans have had a poor preparation period leading up to Eurobasket and there have been some questions raised over coach Frank Menz, who has come under criticism for his management of the players. All things considered the Germans should not be expecting to go any further than the second round given all of their absences and face the possibility of exiting after the initial group stage given the strength of the Belgian squad.

Under the radar guy to watch
Per Günther: Günther is a small Point Guard playing for Ratiopharm Ulm in the Bundesliga and Eurocup, he’s a high energy player and shot over 50% from three point range in the Bundesliga and Eurocup last year. Although he’s had a poor preparation period the Germans will be looking to him to spell Heiko Schaffartzik at the Point and maybe play alongside him in two guard sets.

How Well Could GB Do?

When the GB team was relaunched it was expected that they would be the underdogs for a couple of seasons, but this year it is especially true given the absence of Luol Deng, Joel Freeland and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. As such, the five other teams will be looking to the GB game as a certain win, we should therefore be tapering our expectations to deal this, so if we can play like we did in our first warm up game against Spain, and stay competitive through at least one half and be in touch by the end of the third in each of our games then the tournament could be seen as a success.

Qualification for the next round would be a very, very long shot, despite being in possibly the weakest group, as it would involve winning three games, which would likely be against Ukraine, Germany and Belgium.

This may seem like a pessimistic view, but we need to have a realistic view on the state of the team without our top line players. Even though we can’t expect a great show from GB, this Eurobasket is a great opportunity to see some of the most unique basketball players in the world, and in some cases, as with GB, the absences some squads have sustained are a chance for younger and unknown players to showcase some of their talents.

Remember, we all watch basketball because we enjoy it, and I can’t imagine more enjoyment than watching some of the unique and esoteric players that will be in this tournament.

GB tip off their Eurobasket campaign today (Wednesday 4th September) at 1:30pm vs Israel – watch it all live on (aff link)!


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