Evaluating Turkoglu's Country at EuroBasket 2013
Over the past several years, Turkey has become a legitimate basketball power. Thanks to Hedo Turkoglu’s contributions both as a player and leader for his native country, Turkey has suddenly become known for its hoops.
In front of the hometown supporters at the 2010 FIBA World Championships, Turkey captured the Silver Medal. Along the journey, it eliminated France, Slovenia and Serbia before falling short to the United States in the final.
With Turkoglu moving up in age, this will probably be his last opportunity to help his country return to the FIBA World Cup. Joining Hedo at EuroBasket 2013 on the Turkish squad, who were drawn to Group D that consists of Greece, Russia, Italy, Finland and Sweden, are Omer Asik and Ersan Ilyasova. Enes Kanter will not participate this year, however.
Only six countries from Europe will qualify for the 2014 World Championships, which will take place next summer in Spain.
Finland is finally starting to make progress with its basketball program after years of dourness. Before its surprising showing at Eurobasket 2011, in which it prevailed in three of its games, Finland had not qualified for this event since 1995.
Suddenly, the Finns have made its mark on the game in the U.S. It features three players who all played their college ball at Valparaiso and four others with U.S. collegiate experience, including veteran Hanno Mottola, who the Hawks drafted in 2000.
Its best player, however, is Petteri Koponen, a former first round NBA draft pick. Koponen led Finland in scoring at both EuroBasket 2011 and last summer’s qualification round campaign.
Despite its sudden resurgence on the basketball map, Finland is not expected to be much of a challenge against Turkey. Omer Asik will likely bully over Finland’s interior and Ersan Ilyasova’s versatility will be too vast for the Finns to keep up.
This is the most significant game in pool play for the Turkish squad. If all transpires as expected and Greece and Russia – each ranked in the top six in the world – advance to the next stage of the tournament, the winner of Turkey vs. Italy may determine the third and final team to sneak out of Group D.
Fortunately for Turkey, both Andrea Bargnani and Danillo Gallinari will be absent for the Italians. Bargnani recently came down with a case of pneumonia and won’t be able to recover in time for the competition, while Gallinari tore his ACL late last season.
Marco Bellineli is Italy’s prime star. He recently poured in 21 points in an exhibition against Israel and 24 points in a friendly matchup vs. Poland.
This won’t be a walkover for Turkey, however it should have enough firepower to edge Italy at Bonifika Hall in Koper.
Arguably the most cohesive and well-coached team in the world, Greece along with Spain are probably the two favorites to be the last teams standing at FIBA EuroBasket 2013.
Greece won the gold at EuroBasket 2005 and placed fifth in each the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. It also stunned the United States in the semifinals at the 2006 FIBA World Championships before losing to Spain in the final.
Most of Greece’s roster plays professionally for either Olympiacos B.C. or Panathinaikos B.C., two of the more renowned local teams. It is now led by Kostas Papanikolaou, who the Knicks drafted 48th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, and veteran Vassilis Spanoulis, who was a 2004 second round NBA draft selection and played a season for the Rockets several years ago.
Just a sign of how impressive Greece is this year: It thrashed Lithuania, which will probably go undefeated in its group, 80-62 in an exhibition this week. Georgios Printezis racked up a game-high 23 points.
Mostly because of Jonas Jerebko, only the second Swedish-born basketball player to ever play in the NBA, Sweden is finally on the basketball map.
This is the first time Sweden is participating at EuroBasket since 2003. It has not won a game at the event since 1993.
Barring a monumental upset, Turkey should be able to cruise against Sweden before its highly anticipated showdown against Russia.
Russia will not be as potent as it was in last year’s Olympics where it claimed the Bronze Medal with a thrilling victory over Argentina. Andrei Kirilenko, Timofey Mozgov and Viktor Khryapa, a 2004 NBA Draft pick who played for the Blazers and Bulls before joining CSKA Moscow, will all be absent at this year’s event.
Aleksey Shved, however, along with a very interconnected group that includes up and coming star Sergey Karasev, the 19th overall pick by the Cavaliers in last June’s NBA Draft, are certainly talented enough to win the gold at EuroBasket this year.
The matchup of Karasev vs. Ilyasova will be fascinating to watch.
If Turkey finishes its round-robin play in the top three of its group, it will advance to Group F, a Second Round set of countries consisting of Groups C and D.
Barring any major surprises, Turkey’s next contests will likely be against Spain, Slovenia and either Poland or Croatia. If it finishes in the top four of Group F, Turkey then marches onto the knockout stage – a single elimination tournament featuring the best eight teams from the competition.