Hello everyone. Javier Gancedo here to give you an inside view on the EuroBasket 2011 tournament, which I will be attending on behalf of Euroleague.net. My goal is to do just about anything that I can – particularly once I get to Vilnius for the second group stage and to Kaunas for the medal rounds – to bring you, our fans, closer to the action. Those of who are familiar with Euroleague.net and Eurocupbasketball.com hopefully know who I am. For those who don't know me, this is my ninth season with Euroleague Basketball, where I am completely dedicated to our website and to managing the Bwin Fantasy Challenge. I started my Fantasy Challenge blog last season – look for it again soon! – and also blogged at EuroBasket 2007, where I tried to give you a different look on what was going on in Madrid. I have never been to Lithuania, so going to such a basketball-crazy country adds more excitement to the whole experience. Since I am just as basketball-crazy, I am sure they will like me there, no doubt about it!
Euroleague stars are everywhere
Just like at every major international tournament, Turkish Airlines Euroleague stars – past and present – will be all over the place at EuroBasket 2011. Roughly 150 players will use the event to gather momentum to return afterwards to their clubs and compete in the Euroleague, Eurocup or their respective Qualifying Rounds. All except three of the 24 national teams in Lithuania – Belgium, Ukraine and Portugal – have at least one player set to start the 2011-12 Euroleague regular season in mid-October. Some 30 more players will rush back to their teams to get ready for the Euroleague Qualifying Rounds, which start in late September with a new, exciting Final Eight format. If you take a quick look at the rosters, you'll find Euroleague MVPs Milos Teodosic and Juan Carlos Navarro; five former Euroleague Rising Stars, including Erazem Lorbek of Slovenia; and many All-Euroleague first- and second-team selections, including five from last season: Navarro, Ksistof Lavrinovic, Dusko Savanovic, Fernando San Emeterio and Sergio Llull; not to mention no less than 18 former Euroleague and 5 former Eurocup champions. In other words, if you are a Euroleague fan, get ready to enjoy!
Sneak peek at new Euroleague players
EuroBasket 2011 will give many Turkish Airlines Euroleague fans a first chance to see some of the new players on their teams. For example, Unicaja fans can check out Croatian big man Luka Zoric and playmaker E.J. Rowland, who is a naturalized Bulgarian, in action. EA7 Emporio Armani fans can see three Euroleague veterans – Omar Cook, Antonis Fotsis and Ioannis Bourousis – before they arrive to their new team, even though all three players are quite well known to Euroleague fans. The list of important Euroleague players that switched teams and are present in Lithuania is impressive: Marty Pocius, Robertas Javtokas, Teodosic, Stanko Barac, Bojan Bogdanovic... and many more, all wanting to give their new fans a great impression, just like Papa Diasse has done at AfroBasket 2011. KK Zagreb Croatia Osiguranje found in Diasse a hidden gem, a fast, athletic, left-handed power forward with a great mid-range shot and strength under the boards.
Euroleague powerhouses domination!
A good way to measure the strength of a team is by counting how many players attend the next international competition. Reigning Euroleague champ Panathinaikos has four players at the event - Nick Calathes and Kostas Kaimakoglou with Greece, Giorgi Shermadini in Georgia and Milenko Tepic in Serbia. Maccabi Electra features almost half of the Israeli national team and former Eurocup Rising Star Milan Macvan as one of the main pillars in Serbia. As for other Final Four teams, Montepaschi Siena has five players at EuroBasket 2011, including four guards, which has forced the Italian champs to hire extra players for its pre-season training back home. Real Madrid has four players with as many national teams – Pocius of Lithuania Llull, Ante Tomic of Croatia and Mirza Begic of Slovenia. Anadolu Efes boasts seven players at EuroBasket and an eighth – center Esteban Batista of Uruguay – active at the FIBA Americas Championship, while CSKA Moscow features six in Lithuania. Keep in mind while watching them in Lithuania that all will be back soon - along with many, many more stars - to fight for the Euroleague title in what promises to be a season to remember!
Demanding like never before
There is one thing about this EuroBasket edition that fascinates me. Have a look at this. Reigning champion Spain arrives with its best available squad. Serbia is back with the same players with whom it won silver in 2009, such as Teodosic, Savanovic, Kosta Perovic, Nenad Krstic and many other Euroleague stars. Turkey finished second at the 2010 FIBA World Championships last year and is back to compete for glory. Lithuania, bronze at the world championships last year, is the host and backed by some of the best crowds in the world of sports. Germany is led by Dirk Nowitzki and up-and-coming talent Tibor Pleiss of Brose Baskets, France is a solid team that has stayed together for several years and Italy will attend the event with a fully-developed new generation of players. Well, due to their grouping from the draw, only FOUR out of those seven teams can make it to the EuroBasket 2011 quarterfinals. Within a couple weeks, three of them won't even travel to Kaunas and will be out of chances to go the 2012 Olympics!
That says plenty about how competitive EuroBasket 2011 is going to be. We will have complete, updated coverage of the event. Stay tuned and get ready to enjoy!
Javier Gancedo - Euroleague.net
Wednesday, August 31, 2011