World Cup preview: Euroleague Basketball stars take center stage

Aug 30, 2019 by Print
World Cup preview: Euroleague Basketball stars take center stage

The 2019 Basketball World Cup brings the top talents from around the globe to China for two weeks to compete for the title of the best national team on the planet. And just as would be expected, the stars of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the 7DAYS EuroCup will be front and center among those competing for the medals.

Nearly one-quarter of the competition's participants will play in Euroleague Basketball competitions this season with 63 committed to EuroLeague squads and 23 set to partake in the Eurocup. In fact, there will 133 players in China who have played in the EuroLeague at some point in their respective careers; including 25 current or former EuroLeague champions.

Twenty of the 32 participating countries have players from the EuroLeague of EuroCup on their squads. All 18 EuroLeague teams and 13 EuroCup sides have sent representatives to China as well, including head coach Zvezdan Mitrovic of both the Montenegrin national team and LDLC ASVELVilleurbanne, Serbia and Segafredo Virtus Bologna head coach Sasa Djordjevic, Lithuania and Rytas Vilnius head coach Dainius Adomaitis and Pascal Donnadieu, who is head coach of Nanterre 92 and an assistant coach for the French national team.

The format for this World Cup was expanded to feature four teams in eight different round-robin groups played across China in Foshan, Beijing, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Nanjing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. The top two from each group will advance to a second round-robin stage with four groups of four teams. From there the best two in each group qualify for the single-game quarterfinals on September 10 and 11 in Dongguan and Shanghai. The semifinals will be on September 13 in Beijing and the bronze- and gold-medal games two days later.

Below is a primer of what to look out for in each group.

Group A (Beijing): China, Ivory Coast, Poland, Venezuela

The main draw in Group A will be host China, which will lean on its home-court advantage and star players Yi Jianlian and Guo Ailun to make itself heard. The Ivory Coast is in its fourth World Cup and first since 2010. Well-traveled Unicaja Malaga big man Deon Thompson will be key if the Ivorians are to reach the next stage. Watch out for Poland, which has a very experienced squad thanks to veterans such as 2017 EuroCup champion Adam Waczynski as well as Lukasz Koszarek, Adam Hrycaniuk and former All-EuroCup selection Mateusz Ponitka, among others. Venezuela will compete in the World Cup for the first time since 2006.

Group B (Wuhan): Argentina, Korea, Nigeria, Russia

EuroLeague fans will be treated to many familiar faces in Group B, including the legendary Luis Scola, the lone holdover from Argentina’s 2004 Olympic-winning side. This will be Argentina’s ninth straight World Cup and behind its Real Madrid backcourt of Facu Campazzo and Nico Laprovittola will be a favorite to win the group. The 2015 AfroBasket winner and 2017 runner-up Nigeria will take part in the World Cup for the first time since 2006. Between former two-time All-EuroLeague selection Ekpe Udoh and KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz center Michael Eric, Nigeria will be a force in the paint. After reaching the EuroBasket 2017 semifinals, Russia will be a tough foe. Semen Antonov, Mikhail Kulagin, Nikita Kurbanov and Andrey Vorontsevich all won the EuroLeague last season with CSKA and are now eager to keep the winning going with Russia. South Korea, which has medalled at three of the last four Asian Cups, should not be overlooked.

Group C (Guangzhou): Iran, Puerto Rico, Spain, Tunisia

Rudy Fernandez and Marc Gasol were on the Spanish side that won the World Cup when it was last held in Asia, in 2006, and hope to have their team challenging for medals again. Always among the best teams in international hoops, former EuroLeague champs Sergio Llull of Real Madrid and Ricky Rubio play key roles for Coach Sergio Scariolo’s squad. Reigning Asian Cup winner Tunisia relies on 2.17-meter center Salah Mejri and AX Armani Exchange Milan sharpshooter Michael Roll to lead the way. Iran, which was the runner-up at AfroBasket 2017, also has a pillar in the paint in Hamed Haddadi, who won the EuroLeague with Real Madrid in 2015. Puerto Rico has qualified for every World Cup since 1982 and reached the semifinals in 1990. Renaldo Balkman is the team’s most recognizable player.

Group D (Foshan): Angola, Italy, Philippines, Serbia

The World Cup will begin with Saturday's clash between Angola and Serbia, the latter of which is considered to be a top candidate to take home the trophy. Serbia reached the gold-medal game at the previous World Cup five years ago and - as FR Yugoslavia - won it all in 1998 and 2002. Former EuroLeague MVP Nemanja Bjelica, former EuroLeague champ Bogdan Bogdanovic, All-EuroLeague guard Vasilije Micic and NBA All-Star center Nikola Jokic are among Serbia's top players. Italy will try to fight Serbia for the top spot in the group led by Daniel Hackett, who won the EuroLeague in May with CSKA Moscow, and Gigi Datome, who played alongside Bogdanovic on Fenerbahce’s EuroLeague-winning side in 2017.

Group E (Shanghai): Czech Republic, Japan, Turkey, USA

Reigning champion USA has a different look under Coach Gregg Popovich, who will attempt to lead his team to a sixth gold medal and 13th of any kind. Turkey lost to the Americans in the gold-medal game at the 2010 World Cup in Istanbul. With three players from Anadolu Efes Istanbul’s squad that reached the EuroLeague title game, former champ Melih Mahmutoglu and former EuroCup MVP Scottie Wilbekin, Turkey is a team to watch. Former FC Barcelona star Tomas Satoransky leads the Czech Republic into their maiden World Cup appearance. Japan will play in the World Cup for the fifth time and first since 2006.

Group F (Nanjing): Brazil, Greece, Montenegro, New Zealand

With a pair of All-EuroLeague guards in Nick Calathes and Kostas Sloukas feeding the ball to NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece will be fun to watch and very difficult to stop. Also, the Greek squad features five former EuroLeague champs. Brazil, which won the World Cup in 1959 and 1963, has a formidable frontline with Augusto Lima and former EuroLeague champ Anderson Varejao. Playmaker extraordinaire Marcelinho Huertas could be the difference-maker. Likewise, Montenegro’s power comes from the paint in the form of the EuroCup’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, Bojan Dubljevic, and Nikola Vucevic. Guard Tai Webster and forward Isaac Fotu are the only New Zealand players currently competing in Europe.

Group G (Shenzhen): Dominican Republic: France, Germany, Jordan

France took home the bronze medal at the most recent World Cup and has a versatile and experienced roster capable of battling for a medal again. Former EuroLeague MVP and reigning champion Nando De Colo, defensive stud Rudy Gobert and do-it-all forward Nicolas Batum are key players on this French squad. Germany medalled in 2002, but did not qualify for the last World Cup. Johannes Voigtmann of CSKA Moscow and Daniel Theis make sure Germany will hold its own in the paint against any team. Fenerbahce center Ahmet Duverioglu - who goes by Ahmad Hekmat Al-Dwairi in Jordan in Jordan, is that country’s best player. Ronald Roberts and Sadiel Rojas will try to keep the Dominican Republic in the mix.

Group H (Dongguan): Australia, Canada, Lithuania, Senegal

Lithuania reached the medal rounds at the past two World Cup and captured the bronze in 2010. Alongside veterans Mantas Kalnietis and Paulius Jankunas from that generation, younger studs like Edgaras Ulanovas, Rokas Giedraitis and Domas Sabonis must step up now. The 2017 Asia Cup champion, Australia is in good spirits after topping the USA in an exhibition game and with a frontline of Jock Landale of Zalgiris Kaunas and Aron Baynes teaming with playmaker Patty Mills and former EuroLeague champs Joe Ingles, the Boomers have the size, speed and defense to take down any opponent. Former All-EuroLeague guard Kevin Pangos of FC Barcelona - and formerly of Zalgiris - and Unicaja forward Melvin Ejim play big roles for Canada. Senegal captured the bronze medal at AfroBasket 2017 and with a long and athletic roster, which includes the French League’s top rebounder Youssou Ndoye of Nanterre 92 and Valencia Basket forward Maurice Ndour, all bets are off the table in Group H.

EuroLeague (63)
Patricio Garino KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz Argentina
Luca Vildoza KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz Argentina
Facundo Campazzo Real Madrid Argentina
Gabriel Deck Real Madrid Argentina
Nico Laprovittola Real Madrid Argentina
Jock Landale Zalgiris Kaunas Australia
Kevin Pangos FC Barcelona Canada
Andrew Albicy Zenit St. Petersburg France
Nando De Colo Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul France
Louis Labeyrie Valencia Basket France
Mathias Lessort FC Bayern Munich France
Niels Giffey ALBA Berlin Germany
Johannes Thiemann ALBA Berlin Germany
Danilo Barthel FC Bayern Munich Germany
Maodo Lo FC Bayern Munich Germany
Paul Zipser FC Bayern Munich Germany
Johannes Voigtmann CSKA Moscow Germany
Nick Calathes Panathinaikos OPAP Athens Greece
Georgios Papagiannis Panathinaikos OPAP Athens Greece
Ioannis Papapetrou Panathinaikos OPAP Athens Greece
Kostas Papanikolaou Olympiacos Piraeus Greece
Georgios Printezis Olympiacos Piraeus Greece
Kostas Sloukas Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul Greece
Paul Biligha AX Armani Exchange Milan Italy
Jeff Brooks AX Armani Exchange Milan Italy
Amedeo Della Valle AX Armani Exchange Milan Italy
Luigi Datome Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul Italy
Daniel Hackett CSKA Moscow Italy
Ahmet Duverioglu Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul Jordan
Rokas Giedraitis ALBA Berlin Lithuania
Mindaugas Kuzminskas Olympiacos Piraeus Lithuania
Marius Grigonis Zalgiris Kaunas Lithuania
Paulius Jankunas Zalgiris Kaunas Lithuania
Lukas Lekavicius Zalgiris Kaunas Lithuania
Edgaras Ulanovas Zalgiris Kaunas Lithuania
Bojan Dubljevic Valencia Basket Montenegro
Michael Eric KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz Nigeria
Mateusz Ponitka Zenit St. Petersburg Poland
Semen Antonov CSKA Moscow Russia
Mikhail Kulagin CSKA Moscow Russia
Nikita Kurbanov CSKA Moscow Russia
Andrey Vorontsevich CSKA Moscow Russia
Sergey Karasev Khimki Moscow Region Russia
Evgeny Valiev Khimki Moscow Region Russia
Andrey Zubkov Zenit St Petersburg Russia
Maurice Ndour Valencia Basket Senegal
Mouhammad Faye Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade Senegal
Vasilije Micic Anadolu Efes Istanbul Serbia
Vladimir Lucic FC Bayern Munich Serbia
Nikola Milutinov Olympiacos Piraeus Serbia
Stefan Jovic Khimki Moscow Region Serbia
Rudy Fernandez Real Madrid Spain
Sergio Llull Real Madrid Spain
Victor Claver FC Barcelona Spain
Pierre Oriola FC Barcelona Spain
Pau Ribas FC Barcelona Spain
Quino Colom Valencia Basket Spain
Michel Roll AX Armani Exchange Milan Tunisia
Doguş Balbay Anadolu Efes Istanbul Turkey
Sertac Sanli Anadolu Efes Istanbul Turkey
Bugrahan Tuncer Anadolu Efes Istanbul Turkey
Melih Mahmutoglu Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul Turkey
Scottie Wilbekin Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv Turkey

7DAYS EuroCup (23)
Melvin Ejim Unicaja Malaga Canada
Axel Toupane Unicaja Malaga France
Andreas Obst ratiopharm Ulm Germany
Vangelis Mantzaris UNICS Kazan Greece
Ariel Filloy Umana Reyer Venice Italy
Awudu Abass Germani Brescia Leonessa Italy
Luca Vitali Germani Brescia Leonessa Italy
Deon Thompson Unicaja Malaga Ivory Coast
Arnas Butkevecius Rytas Vilnius Lithuania
Mantas Kalnietis Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar Lithuania
Nikola Ivanovic Buducnost VOLI Podgorica Montenegro
Petar Popovic Buducnost VOLI Podgorica Montenegro
Suad Sehovic Buducnost VOLI Podgorica Montenegro
Tai Webster Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul New Zealand
Adam Hrycaniuk Asseco Arka Gdynia Poland
Adam Waczynski Unicaja Malaga Poland
Vitaliy Fridzon Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar Russia
Vladimir Ivlev Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar Russia
Youssou Ndoye Nanterre 92 Senegal
Marko Simonovic Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana Serbia
Ege Arar Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul Turkey
Yigit Arslan Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul Turkey
Berkan Durmaz Tofas Bursa Turkey