Saturday, 14 July 2007

A View from Serbia

We are fortunate to be getting direct reports from Serbia courtesy of Andrew Cook, an official with Canada Basketball travelling with the Jr. National team. As you will see, Andrew's insights on the tournament are excellent and we appreciate him taking the time to produce these reports for us. There are two reports from Andrew below and both show the depth of talent and the parity of play across the entire set of teams internationally. Best of luck for Canada this morning and throughout the tournament.

First Game vs. Nigeria comments (comments in brackets added by "Good win for us yesterday and now a big game against Turkey today. We definitely struggled yesterday in the first half keeping Nigeria off the offensive glass - they are super athletic at every position and (Solomon) Alabi may end up being an NBA centre someday. With Scott Brittain picking up his 2nd foul early in the first quarter he was off for the remainder of the half. Scott is our best defensive rebounder and that hurt to lose him 3 minutes into the game. In the second half we really had a concerted team effort to defensive rebound and it showed. We contained them in transition and the halfcourt, rebounded and created a lot of transition scores. Offensively our backcourt played great. Devoe (Joseph) is playing point and was outstaning, Jon House make big shots early to get us going and Kai (Williams) came off the bench to give us a spark. Boris (Bakovic) played a very solid game throughout. Today is a big game against Turkey - the 4th place finishers in Europe in 2006. They have an outstanding point guard in Dugas Balbay and a physical and versatile front line with a lot of 3 point shooters. The Australia is the top seed in the pool with possibly the top point guard in the tournament in (Patrick) Mills and a great big in (Andrew) Ogilvy."

Game Two vs. Turkey comments: "Yesterday we faced a tough, veteran Turkey team with their backs against the wall. We missed some open shots early and turned the ball over deep in their halfcourt, creating some transition opportunities that fueled their scoring. Once they gained confidence it was tough for our team to recover. Can Ozcan made several difficult three's off of full speed, straight line cuts and Dogus Balbay played tight perimeter defense. Being the former European U16 champions in 2005, deep and experienced, we knew we would get Turkey's best effort given their need for a win. The positives out of the game for us came from Boris Bakovic who gave us a great effort the entire game leading us in scoring with 14 points and rebounding with 10 boards. Also our two youngest players, Cory Joseph and Maurice Walker got their first significant international experience, both demonstrating that they are capable of playing at this level. Joseph had 8 points including a couple of jump shots in the 3rd quarter to give the team a spark. The tournament showed its tremendous depth of field yesterday with Korea defeating Puerto Rico 98-94 and Nigeria coming very close to beating Australia, losing a tight game 77-73. France, Lithuania, USA and Spain appear to have separated themselves as tournament favorites after two days of competition, with 8-9 other teams with legitimate top 8 hopes. In a long tournament under this format teams will go through significant highs and lows, playing as many as 9 games in 11 days. Today, we regroup and prepare for a disciplined Australia team that plays year round together at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport). It is a big game for us to regain our confidence and gain a second win heading into the second round of play. On the other side of our half of the draw Puerto Rico needs to beat Argentina and then win in a three way tie break, assuming Spain beats Korea, with Argentina and Korea. A loss today and Puerto Rico will be eliminated. Mali, Nigeria and Lebanon all need wins today to keep from being eliminated.

The US faces their first true test of the tournament with a game against the host Serbia, who has three big, physical frontcourt players, including 7'3 Marjanovic who comes of the bench. After cruising to wins over Mali and China everyone is looking forward to seeing how the US fares against another top team."

No comments: