The FIBA Europe U20 European Championships will start tomorrow in Targu Mures for Division B while the Division A will be played in Riga. Because I will be in Riga during the Finals weekend, and will therefor have an in-deep coverage of the tournament, I will only come up with a preview of the B division. So here we go.
The first group features some pretty interesting teams with a bunch of skillful talent. Let’s start with Norway which will be driven by Nike Hoop Summit player Torgrimm Sommerfeldt and especially the Clemson Guard Terrence Oglesby. The team finished their preparation with two wins during the Baltic Sea Cup and the possibility of qualification to the next round is given.
The Portuguese team around Claudio Fonseca will also try to qualify for the next round while Great Britain may have some trouble as they won’t see their top player Daniel Clark in Romania.
Finland struggled during the Baltic Sea Cup by losing against Norway, however my Finnish friend Hippo is quite optimistic.
Now this is an interesting team. Finnish U20 roster had two 207 cm tall players when Petri Heinonen of Honka and Max Dahlman of JKS suited up. First, Dahlman dropped out of the team for personal reasons and then Heinonen got injured for the whole summer. Now, Finland is preparing for U20 games with a roster that includes just one 200cm tall player (small forward Nicolas Dolenc). The second tallest player of the team is 196 cm Matias Ojala, a natural SF. The rest of the roster consists of guards!
Everyone knows that in a situation like this, Finland is far away from being a candidate for a spot in European Division A. The team has been surprisingly winning some national team games this summer with their grind and hustle defense and a good array of versatile scorers. They won’t win any rebounding battles, but they sure as hell can make the opponent’s life hard, challenging every pass and excelling in help defense.
The biggest name of the roster is 190cm guard ANTTI KANERVO, last year’s leading scorer of U18 Div B European Championship games with the average of 24,5ppg. Kanervo earned the Finnish Div 1 (second highest league in inland) MVP award last year after averaging 21,1ppg and draining 64 points in the season ender against Visa Basket. Kanervo is a smart, fundamental “back to
basics” player who can play positions 1-3 and can read the game extremely well. He knows when to shoot, when to drive and when to pass. Kanervo is often double-teamed, and that leaves space for KTP Basket’s JUHO LEHTORANTA, 191 cm, and ALEKSI HUUSKONEN, 188 cm. Both guys are talented scorers with a good shooting range and who also can bring the ball upcourt with ease. Point guard MICHAEL POUNDS, 188 cm, has been known for his
defense but he has been surprisingly stable in the offensive end as well.
Guards ILPO PEHKONEN, 181 cm, and SKOMANTAS POCIUS, 184 cm, won’t appear in headlines anytime soon, but both fellows are main architechs of Finland’s team defense. Both of them can lock down bigger players and change the pace of the game with their hustle and determination.
Finally, there is FYROM where you don’t exactly know what will come and they can always be considered as a possible qualification team.
Group B features in Germany a possible favorite as the team is composed of their very talented 1989 generation around Elias Harris and Robin Benzing. So the official goal is to move back to Division A. During the preparation phase, the team had some good opposition with the Turkish U20 team but also destroyed the U20 hosts Romania 94-60 in their last game.
Concerning,the other teams in Group B, not a lot of tough opposition is to be seen at first sight. Sweden can eventually be considered as a legit competitor for the first place in this group with their talented squad around Christian Koutras and Jeffery Taylor.
The rest of the group does not seem particularly strong though.
This group seems pretty open with an Estonian team that is somewhere on the level of Norway. The team will most likely be built around Timo Eichfuss who comes of an interesting season as well as Sten-Timmu Sokk.
Belgium may be interesting to watch in Romania as they feature some interesting back court players with Geoffrey Hockins and Olivier Troisfontaine while Thomas Dreesen will hit the threes from the wing.
Austria tries to qualify for the Top 8 with their U20 team, something that their coach Dietmar Söllner has announced. They see their opponents however pretty strong but with a disciplined play, everything is possible for them.
The Slovak Republic will be led by their inside player Roman Vido who played already the U20 Euro last summer and knows how the competition works. They are the fourth team in this group that can go for a qualification to the Top8 without being a surprise.
Switzerland may be a bit less talented than the above mentioned teams but this does not mean that they come to Romania without ambitions. Don’t be surprised to see some aggressive defense and hard work.
Group D features first of all the hosts from Romania who will be led by their inside duo Titus Nicoara and Vlad Moldoveanu. The second one, who just finished his first NCAA season at George Mason told me what he thinks of the upcoming tournament.
We are all healthy and very excited about the opportunity we have in front of us.We are practicing really hard.
Our goal is to win it all.I think we should take it one step at the time and say that our biggest opponent is Poland though I think that we are our biggest opponent because we have a great team and if we play the way I know we are capable of playing we will put ourselves in a great position to win the tournament.
I’m really excited to play in front of a great crowd in Targu Mures and I am really happy that we get the chance to play at home.
Poland features as every year a nice bunch of talent for the B Division level but unfortunately, this group does not seem to have an extraordinary talent in its roster.
Hungary may also play a role in this group but they seem to be a little less talented than the two above mentioned teams while the Netherlands may finish last here.