Out of the top eight seeded teams in the FIBA World Cup, five are from Europe. A total of 12 European teams qualified for this year’s World Cup in China. Let us meet the seven other European teams in the last episode of this series.
Germany (World Ranking: 22)
Germany had the best record among the seven remaining European teams that made the World Cup. The team finished 2nd in Group L with a 9-3 record, just two games behind group topnotcher Greece and two games ahead of World No. 4 Serbia, whom Germany beat twice.
Dirk Nowitzki said he is super excited about the team’s chances in the World Cup. “If everybody is healthy, then the DBB (German Basketball Federation) has assembled a great young group. With Daniel Theis (Boston Celtics), with Maxi Kleber (Dallas Mavericks, with Dennis Schroder (OKC Thunder) – that is a super exciting generation,” the 40-year-old said.
Aside from the three NBA players mentioned by Nowitzki, Germany will be counting on Spanish league player 6’7 Paul Zipser, who previously saw action for the Chicago Bulls, and 6’10 Robin Benzing, who was Germany’s second leading scorer in the qualifiers after Schroder.
Turkey (World Ranking: 17)
Finishing with an 8-4 record, the team known as the 12 Giant Men ended up second in Group I behind world No. 2 Spain. The ones who proved to be stellar for the Turkish campaign were former NBA player 6’11 Semih Erden, who averaged 9.4 points and 5.6 boards ,and naturalized point guard Scott Wilbekin. The 6’2 Wilbekin, who played college basketball for the Florida Gators and was named the US NCAA Division Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 2014, normed 11.2 points and 3.8 assists in five games for Turkey.
For the World Cup, Turkey will most likely be led by Cedi Osman (who is averaging close to 13 points a game as a starter for the Cleveland Cavaliers), shooting guard Furkan Korkmaz of the Philadelphia Sixers (who averaged 20.3 points in the qualifiers), and 6’10 veteran Ersan Ilyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Russia (World Ranking: 10)
Russia was in danger of missing the World Cup when it posted a 3-6 record after going down 78-80 to the Czech Republic in the first game of the September window. They buckled down to business after and went on to win its next five games to finish with an 8-6 record, enough to place second in Group K.
There were a number of Russians who stepped up for the team in the qualifiers. Sharp-shooting point guard Dmitry Khvostov scored 12 points with almost three triples a game on top of 4.4 assists. 6’6 shooting guard Dmitrii Kulagin was a steady all-around presence with 12.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. 6’8 guard-forward Sergey Karasev, who had stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Brooklyn Nets, contributed 11 points per game.
If it wants to make some splash in the World Cup, Russia will need the services of 7’1 Timofey Mozgov of the Orlando Magic and Alexey Shved, who played in the NBA from 2012-2015. Mozgov and Shved played only two games for Russia in the qualifiers.
Italy (World Ranking: 13)
Italy finished tied with Poland behind Lithuania in Group J, but Italy copped second in the standings due to a superior quotient. Italy had some shaky moments in the qualifiers after the November window, but sealed their spot with a 75-41 victory over Hungary last February 22, thereby relegating to irrelevance their loss to Lithuania in their last game.
Danilo Gallinari, who averages 19.3 points as a starter for the Los Angeles Clippers, and Marco Bellineli, who scores 10.74 off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs, did not see action in the qualifiers. They are expected to be called up for the squad to China especially since Italy did not even make the main draw of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
In the qualifiers, the Italians were led by Ghana native Awudu Abass, who saw action in all 12 games and averaged 10.3 points. 25-year-old 6’4 point guard Amedeo Dela Valle was impressive as he contributed 17.8 points a game. 6’8 naturalized forward Jeff Brooks, who played US NCAA Division I basketball for Penn State, and former NBA player Luigi Datome were the other key contributors for Italy.
Poland (World Ranking: 25)
The team known as the “Bialo-czerwoni”, which means “The White and Red”, will be making their first World Cup appearance since 1967. Poland posted an impressive 8-4 record, beating out Hungary and Croatia in Group J of the qualifiers in hte process.
Mateusz Ponitka, a 6’5 shooting guard who plays in the Russian league, led the way for Poland with 13.4 points and 4.7 rebounds. Small forward Adam Waczynski, who plays in the Spanish league, contributed 13.5 points as he formed a prolific offensive duo with Ponitka.
AJ Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar’s college teammate in Western Kentucky, suited up as Poland’s naturalized player and normed 14.7 points and 4.7 assists. Veteran 6’11 center-forward Maciej Lampe, who started in the youth academy of Real Madrid before becoming in 2004 the youngest player at 18-years-old to appear in a regular season game for the Phoenix Suns, was a dominant force in the low block as he scored 14.4 points and grabbed 7.2 boards. Marcin Gortat, who was recently waived by the LA Clippers, is projected to form a formidable twin tower combo with Lampe in the World Cup.
Czech Republic (World Ranking: 24)
For the first time in history, Czech Republic will be represented in the World Cup. The team sealed their ticket to China with a 69-64 win over Bosnia last February 22. They lost their last game versus France but it hardly mattered except in the final standings as Russia grabbed 2nd place in their group due to quotient to push Czech Republic to 3rd place.
6’6 forward Jaromir Bohacik led the charge for the team with his averages of 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. Former French league MVP Blake Schilb, an American who played US NCAA Division I basketball for the Loyola Ramblers, was the team’s naturalized player. He contributed 12.2 points in 10 games.
6’7 point guard Tomas Satoransky, who currently averages 8.52 points and 4.73 assists for the Washington Wizards, played two games in the qualifiers. He is expected to be the squad’s main man in the World Cup. 7’0 center Jan Vesely, who played in the NBA from 2011-2014, will be the team’s frontline anchor.
Montenegro (World Ranking: 28)
On the last day of the FIBA Europe qualifiers, the biggest game pitted Montenegro versus Latvia. Montenegro held a one-game lead over Latvia. In order to qualify, Latvia had to win by nine points. The Latvians led by as much as 13 points in the game but Montenegro managed to trim the deficit to six in the closing seconds. Latvia still had one more chance to increase the lead back to nine but missed a last second three-point attempt. Because of this, Montenegro will be making its first ever World Cup appearance this August.
Nikola Ivanovic, Montenegro’s 6’3 court general, was the steady presence the team needed in the qualifiers with his 13.8 points and 4.8 assists. Derek Needham, Montenegro’s naturalized player, was the other outstanding point guard for the team as he averaged 12.2 points per outing. Providing the inside muscle for Montenegro was 6’9 power forward Bojan Dubljevic. A Spanish league mainstay for Valencia, Dubljevic contributed 18.2 points and 6.8 boards to Montenegro’s cause.
If Nikola Vucevic, the Orlando Magic’s 7’0 starting center, and 2013 Portland Trail Blazer’s draft pick 6’10 Marko Todorovic, join the team to China, then Montenegro will have a frontline that will be tough for a team like Gilas Pilipinas to match-up with.