Today started the U20 European Championship for Division B teams in Austria. Europeanprospects.com spoke with Robert Langer, the Sports director of the Austria Basketball Federation about this tournament and the chances of the hosts to win the Gold Medal.
Mr. Langer, is this the first time that Austria organizes such a major event for Youth Basketball?
It is the first time since 1986 where the European Championship for Junior Men has been played in Gmunden and Vöcklabruck. where Yougoslavia won the Gold Medal with a team built around Vlade Divac.
Is the Austrian 1990 born generation, which is pretty strong, the reason why Austria Basketball decided to organize this European Championship?
The 1990 generation is one of the strongest of the last years we had in our country. The guys finished 4th at the U16 European Championship 2006 in Tallinn. They lost the Bronze Medal in Overtime against Bulgaria back then. In 2008, the U18 team won 6 out of 8 games in Debrecen, the two only losses were against Slovenia and the Czech Republic that afterwards played the Final and moved up to the Division A. We missed a bit of luck against the Czech Republic especially. It was clear, that if we want to organize such a tournament again after such a long time, it would be for this generation. This team deserves to play the European Championship at home.
What are the goals for the team?
With some luck, we can qualify for the Division A during this tournament. Eventually, the home-court advantage will help us gain the necessary percentages to move up. The federation did not put any pressure on the team to absolutely qualify for the final. But I think, that this is the goal of the players themselves. The mid-term goal is however to integrate these prospects in our Senior National Team. The long-term goal is to qualify for a 24-team Eurobasket. 2015 may be the right moment for this generation to play on that level.
Who do you consider as the main candidates for the title?
Poland was always very strong with the 1990 generation. We think that other teams that are strong are Bulgaria, Israel, Sweden and Belgium. One of the main factors will of course be the presence of the key players for all of the nations.
How do you see the future of Austrian Youth Basketball in general? How do you scout players and what are the structures behind the National teams?
We try to scout the players when they are about 14 years old. At this age, there are the first camps and tournament to find the best prospects. From the U16 group, we work throughout the year with the different players. Together with the European Championships, we manage to have the players together for 40-45 days in the year. This is only the case for a few years so far. If we can develop this program over the next years and improve it, we hope to get the results in a few years and have more players that have a good level.
Who are the players to follow in Austria for the next years?
We have some talent in all the different youth teams. We lack the necessary depth to play regularly at the top of Division B. From our U20 National team, Rasid Mahalbasic and Moritz “Momo” Lanegger are already members of the 16-players Senior National Team. Several other young players are on the edge of the 16-men roster as well. Jesse Seilern has played an excellent preparation to the European Championship. A lot depends on the career-choices of our young players, for which team they play or which US College they chose. Only good practice and a lot of playing time is helping them to improve and have the possibility to become a good player on the long-term. I hope that lots of them find the program where they can grow into professionals over the next years.
Austria started with a win against Belgium into the U20 European Championship. Rasid Mahalbasic was the top scorer of the team with 27pts and 12rebs. Momo Lanegger had 13pts, 5rebs and 6asts while Jesse Seilern scored 20pts at 4/6 from behind the arc.