Group C consists of France, Greece, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, headlined by NBA and Euroleague players such as Tony Parker, Mickael Pietrus, Boris Diaw, Rasho Nesterovic and Beno Udrih.
Games will be conducted in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro from September 16th to 18th
Read more about the Eurobasket tournament at the informative official website Eurobasket2005.com
Tony Parker- 6-2, PG, San Antonio Spurs, 23 years old
Parker is a one of a kind commodity in a tournament like this, and will be especially intriguing to follow as he highlights the differences for us between the NBA and International game. In terms of sheer quickness and explosiveness, Parker is in a class of his own here in Belgrade. NBA defenders find it almost impossible to stay in front of him when he decides to make his way to the basket, so it will be fascinating to see how this translates over the Eurobasket tournament and how much of Frances game will revolve around his ability to penetrate and score rather than running a traditional half-court offense as most of the other teams here will do. It will also be interesting to see how he performs without the benefit of playing next to the #1 player in the world in Tim Duncan. Two years ago in Sweden Parker was having a fairly successful Eurobasket tournament until his team met the eventual champions Lithuania, led by current Indiana Pacers PG Sarunas Jasikevicius, in the semifinals. Parker was outplayed by the Lithuanian star, taking too much on himself and shooting 8-23 from the field, while only dishing out 2 assists to go along with his 3 turnovers. Parker must show better decision making ability in this tournament--especially in the clutch-- than he has so far in international play and even in the NBA playoffs when things really matter. His inability to consistently knock down the three pointer has been an Achilles heel for him in his career so far, and it will be fascinating to see how opposing teams defend him as this can be a major problem (not just for him, but for France in general) in the International game, especially since his team has almost no frontcourt presence whatsoever. The French will only go as far as their star PG will led them.
Boris Diaw- 6-9, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns, 23 years old
Boris Diaw is having a great summer so far, after getting his wish and being traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Phoenix Suns, hes heading to the European championship as a key player for the French team. While the team is struggling with its defense but also on offense, Diaw is taking responsibility on himself and is becoming more aggressive on the offensive end, taking open shoots and playing one on one when he has to. Hes still the absolute team player who can play any guard or forward position. On a French team which lacks size in the paint hes very valuable, especially for defensive rebounds. His size, long arms and good vertical leap enable him to crash the glass in front of other big men.
Hes still a team oriented player who has excellent passing ability, but he will surprise a lot of fans who only saw him in Atlanta. As team chemistry is still a big issue for France, he has to create for others but also for himself and has been surprisingly aggressive in the paint. Finally, hes one of the best one on one defenders on the French team, but has struggled a bit with his team defense during the friendly games as was the case with the whole team. If he can stay on the same path he has shown offensively in the European Championships and then later on in the season with Phoenix , well be able to see the all-around player (defensively and offensively) he was meant to be entering the league. The confidence he can gain in himself playing against some of the top talent in the world here can be huge right before the NBA season kicks off.
Mickael Pietrus, 6-6 SG/SF, Golden State Warriors, 23 years old
Possibly the most athletic player at this tournament, Pietrus is a player who will be watched very closely by both European and NBA fans alike as many seem to think that he is just on the verge of accomplishing his full potential and blowing up in a huge way as a player. Injury problems and Golden States depth on the wings has stopped that from happening so far, but here in Belgrade Pietrus will have every opportunity to shine and show exactly why many think so highly of his ability as a player.
Defensively is where his presence should be felt the most. Kirilenko aside, he might be considered the best man to man defender of any player competing here in Serbia and Montenegro. His freakish athletic ability, superb body, long arms and tenacious motor will be a force to be reckoned with for the best perimeter player on any team that he will likely be thrown at.
Offensively is where he has the most to prove. He has shown sparks playing for Golden State, but his ball-handling and perimeter shooting still leave something to be desired, as does his focus and maturity level. France, with Tony Parker and Boris Diaw at the helm, will most likely be looking to run as much as possible, and this is exactly where Pietrus excels the most. Those three on the perimeter will be as close to an NBA offense as you will get at the Eurobasket, a sharp contrast from anything else seen here, and the results will be fascinating to watch.
Mickael Gelabale, 6-7 SF, Real Madrid, 22 years old
After a season with powerhouse Real Madrid where he reveled himself to the European scene, Gelabale has been the most pleasant surprise of the French National Team in the preparation games so far. He is more than just a rotation player on a team loaded on the wing with NBA players Boris Diaw and Mickael Pietrus and also veteran Antoine Rigaudeau. In one year he went from playing for a French league team to starting with Real Madrid, being drafted by the Sonics and getting his first international play. France is struggling with defense and intensity in its friendly games prior the championships so far, and Gelabale is one of the rare guys that is stepping it up.
Gelabales great accuracy on his mid-range jumper makes him a constant threat off the ball, while his athleticism, length and basketball IQ enable him to defend any swingmen on the continent. He beat veteran Alain Digbeu due to his consistency and because his package of skills always makes him useful on the court. The comparison between him and Mickael Pietrus, while often being mentioned should be downplayed as they dont have the same offensive game nor exactly the same qualities on defense. Gelabale is signed thru 2008, but has clear NBA opt out clauses each year and he still might join the Seattle Supersonics in a year or two. This Eurobasket tournament is great for his learning curve, but also is ideal for him to prepare for a crucial season of confirmation with Real Madrid that his break out season was not a fluke. He wont be sneaking up on anyone anymore.
Dimitris Diamantidis, 6-5, PG, Panathinaikos, 25 years old
Diamantidis is a unique left-handed point guard who is considered by many to be the best player on the Greek squad. Having already gained experience from his participation in the past two international competitions (The 2003 Eurobasket in Sweden and the Athens Olympics last summer), he is already considered a veteran in international hoops, but on the other hand, stability in his game seems to have just arrived this year, after his successful rookie Euroleague season with Panathinaikos.
Diamantidis is a special case of a player. More athletic than your average European PG, he is an all-around, team-oriented player, excelling particularly on defense, where he is excellent in guarding space and putting himself in position to predict loose balls. His defensive timing, quick legs and leaping ability also make him an excellent shot-blocker, despite being a PG. This skill is also taken advantage by the Greek coach Panayotis Yannakis, as his timing and smarts help him add some intimidation on help-defense. He is also a particularly talented rebounder and is a first pass player, a big advantage for a team which loves fast break. Moreover, In a revolutionary offensive system of coach Yannakis, Diamantidis is used as a "motive" defensive player, meaning that he is guarding more space than the other perimeter players in case of a zone defense. Thus, his ability to predict the destination of passes and control his opponent, often gives opportunities for a steal, deflection or unnecessary turnover by the opponent.
Offensively, he is a below-average and fairly predictable mid and long-range shooter, but this isn't going to be an issue, as he only takes a limited number of shots per game. His strongest offensive skill is his slashing game, through which he can easily penetrate and either finish impressively, or liberate a teammate and then find the free shot. Finishing with his left hand is something that is difficult anyway to stop, but his ability to start slashing from either side makes him a very tough player to stop in Europe with a man-to-man defense. This weapon is expected to be one of the most important ones for the Greek National Team in this upcoming Eurobasket.
Diamantidis' maturity has also been obvious in his organizational skills. He is cooperating well with his teammates and looks patiently for his big guys. He rarely attempts jump shots, where he is weak and he also isn't turnover-prone, most of the time trying to look for the best possible solution in every Greek offensive set. He stays on the court for around 30 minutes per game, as the Greeks play a 3-guard system almost throughout, and he is a very important contributor on both ends. At the moment, he is the closest thing to a leader for this contending team.
Lazaros Papadopoulos, 6-11, Center, Dynamo Moscow, 25 years old
Lazaros Papadopoulos might not be the best player on this team, but he is certainly the most important one. Without him, Greece would not be as dominant inside and most likely would not be medal contenders by any means.
Papadopoulos is a skilled big man, who will probably lead not only Greece in scoring in this competition, but also potentially all the centers here at the Eurobasket. He is an extremely effective post threat, with numerous ways to put the ball in the rim while also being good enough technically to take advantage of his passing abilities and find open teammates. Among Papadopoulos' offensive weapons is an odd looking sky hook, which seems very difficult to be stopped, as well as his very good positioning inside the paint. The Greek coach has invested much time and has planned most of his offensive sets focusing on Papadopoulos, as Greece lacks a decent back-up center and usually looks for PFs to give him some rest.
Defensively, Papadopoulos is just fine. He isn't a terrific rebounder, but he does well enough in this area, while although there are games where his competitiveness is questionable, it seems that he is dedicated this summer, having realized that he will be the team's focus 24/7. He seems able to hold his own against any international center and can be aggressive enough to not let his player run over him.
Papadopoulos seems to be the best Greek hope in this tournament, so, depending on him, Greece can go from highs to lows and the other way around. He is yet another big man who will be tracked closely by NBA scouts and executives in the never ending hunt for skilled bigmen with NBA upside.
Panagiotis Vasilopoulos, 6-8, SF, Olympiakos, 21 years old
This year's National Team of Greece is one of the deepest teams in the guard positions, but only uses small forwards in specific offensive sets. Panagiotis Vassilopoulos, a classy 6-8 SF is not going to see much playing time in this first International competition of his career, but he is one of those players who will be using all their energy for the team's sake and thus, whenever he steps in, becomes a useful tool for this contending squad.
Vassilopoulos has been busy all summer, being a top player for the U-21 Greek National Team in the World Championships, where they finished 2nd. He has all the tools to be a nice role player and has also the basketball IQ to be used as a modern, creative small forward. He is 6-8, with a strong, athletic body, nice moves and a sweet outside touch. His slashing skills show confidence and his game is team-oriented, leaving egoism outside for the good of his team.
Defensively, he is strong and patient. He doesnt mind contact, and can use his hands for steals, while his leaping ability is good and blocking shots isnt out of the question, as he has lately been one of the top shot-blockers in the Greek A1 Championship. In general, he is a defensive-minded player, something which is very important for this National Team, where everything begins from a tough, moving defense and ends with fast breaks. In this case, Vassilopoulos can finish impressively on fast breaks, while he has the smarts to pass the ball efficiently after a quick rebound or a good defensive play.
In the Eurobasket, having only played in two games for the Senior National Team so far, he will be the youngest and least experienced player of this squad, but he doesn't lack motivation. He is eager to help on both sides whenever he is given a chance and it is definite that he will be a good addition, maybe also in the easiest group game for Greece, the one versus Bosnia. He is very mature and this Eurobasket should help him add more experience to his game.
Rasho Nesterovic, 7-0, Center, San Antonio Spurs, 29 years old
Starting on the front line for one of the biggest sleeper teams of this Eurobasket is San Antonio Spurs backup Center Rasho Nesterovic. Rasho is coming off his worst season in the last 4 years in the NBA, a season marred with inconsistency and continuous insults from ESPN "analyst" Stephen A. Smith that eventually saw him lose his confidence almost altogether along with his spot in San Antonios rotation until Nesterovic ended up playing only 7 and a half minutes in the playoffs.
In spite of that, Nesterovic has the potential to have a great tournament here in Serbia and Montenegro playing with a team that will need every point, rebound and block he can bring them and likely doing whatever it takes to make sure their big man gets the touches and minutes to do that. Playing in the international style of basketball, where athletic ability is emphasized less than in the NBA, Rasho has a better chance of taking advantage of his terrific size and body while suffering less from guarding and being guarded by quicker and more explosive big men than he usually sees playing with his club.
Nesterovic is a big body with good length and the basic all-around skills a modern Center needs to earn a nice paycheck for as long as his body allows him to. He is an excellent shot-blocker at any level, and offensively can score both with his back to the basket or from 16-18 feet out when he is being assertive and aggressive enough to make his presence felt. He is not the most athletic 7 footer here at the Eurobasket, but his mobility is certainly good enough to run up and down the floor with purpose and be a valuable cog in Slovenias offense. His weaknesses mostly seem to lie in the mental part of the game. Rasho has always been an extremely inconsistent player, not always looking all that focused or interested in what is going on around him and often lacking the drive to live up to his full potential as a player. What has been most frustrating for Spurs fans to watch, besides his inability to hit more than 50% of his free throws, has especially been his lack of assertiveness on the offensive side of the ball, often shying away from responsibility when his team could clearly use his size inside the paint, and looking like a deer in headlights when he did get the ball in position to score.
Here in Belgrade Nesterovic has a great chance to show European and NBA fans alike that he still has what it takes to be a difference maker on both ends of the floor. The Spurs will be watching especially closely to see what Nesterovic and his 30 million dollar contract over the next 4 years can bring to the table as the first or second option offensively on his team, possibly to monitor what his trade value stands at when the Eurobasket tournament is over. That is especially true considering the recent signing of Argentinean big man Fabricio Oberto which may have relegated Nesterovic to being the 3rd string center in San Antonio if he cant find a way to regain his old form.
Beno Udrih, 6-4, PG/SG, San Antonio Spurs, 23 years old
After a very solid rookie season which saw him break into the NBA champions rotation almost immediately because of his timely outside shooting, passing and mature play, Udrih is looking to build on last year by leading his country to a berth in the World Championships next summer in Japan.
Udrih is in an interesting situation playing with Slovenia. He is a pure point guard in a shooting guards body playing next to a dangerous shooting guard in a point guards body in Jaka Lakovic.
If healthy, the versatile Udrih will be starting at either the 1 or the 2 for his team, taking a good amount of the playmaking duties on his shoulders, providing leadership despite his youth and trying to get all of his many talented offensive options involved while trying to get his own offense going at the same time.
Udrih is a talented ball-handler who knows how to use a wide array of sharp cuts and head and body fakes to get into the lane with ease. He understands the team concept and has shown excellent potential in terms of controlling the tempo of the game and running an offense. He also has deep range on his jump-shot and the ability to play intelligently off the ball to free himself up on the perimeter to take advantage of that. Defensively he is fairly solid as well because of his size and high basketball IQ.
His weaknesses mostly lie in his lack of experience playing at a high level of basketball such as this, along with his average athleticism which is more of a problem in the NBA than it should be here in Europe. Udrih has seen sporadic playing time over the last three years, but will be thrown straight into the fire and asked to lead a talented, but unproven (with Charlotte Bobcats center Primoz Brezec, Nuggets draftee Sani Becirovic, Pacers draftee Erazem Lorbek, Raptors draftee Uros Slokar, New Orleans Hornets swingman Boki Nachbar and others) team against two excellent teams in Greece and France in the first round. There will be very little margin for error for the 23 year old Udrih and it will be very interesting to see how he handles the pressure. This is a good chance to show the Spurs that he is still a viable candidate for backup minutes at both the 1 and the 2 next year despite the signings of Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley.
A recent injury has put Udrihs chances of participating at the Eurobasket tournament in Belgrade in question. He suffered a knee injury in a preparation and will be monitored closely by Slovenias medical staff to evaluate his progress and determine whether he will be able to participate. Udrih will be undergoing Physiotherapy over the next few days in the meantime.
9/13 Edit: Udrih ruled out of Eurobasket.
According to reports out of Slovenia, Beno Udrih has been left out of Slovenias roster for the Eurobasket tournament in Serbia and Montenegro, and is already back in San Antonio for examinations by team doctors. Udrih, who has had a history over the past few years with injury problems, suffered strained knee ligaments in a friendly game with Hungary and is expected to be out of action for 3-4 weeks. Slovenian Coach Ale Pipan decided that he is not fit to participate and left him off the final 12 man roster. Attempting to replace Udrih in the rotation will be Aleksander Capin, Nuggets draftee Sani Becirovic (who has been at odds with the coach and voiced his displeasure in the media) and Jaka Lakovic.
Uros Slokar, 6-11, Power Forward, Benetton Treviso, 22 years old
This is a key moment in Slokars career. The Slovenian lefty is coming off a season that saw him loaned from Benetton to Snaidero due to a lack of playing time, as well as erratic showings whenever he did hit the court. He found redemption in Udine, finishing the campaign in quite good fashion, earning in June a spot in the late second round of a very deep draft. Next season, Treviso will be waiting for him again, and hell try to prove that hes ready enough to get a spot in the rotation of a Euroleague team. Meanwhile, the Eurobasket could be the perfect place to draw some respect even if hes not one of the main pieces in Slovenia, a team that already features important names in the paint such as Nesterovic, Brezec or Lorbek.
Slokar is a skilled power forward who shines the most at this point in the rebounding department. Indeed, he already showed his ability to get boards in Udine, taking advantage of his positioning and nice agility, and in the preparation games it hasnt been any different. Nevertheless, Slokar is not a strong player, getting sometimes pushed around on both ends of the court. Its particularly annoying for him on defense, being forced to commit too many fouls, which doesnt allow him to stay that on the court that much in some games. When it comes to scoring he shows a finesse game, starting with a very nice mid-range stroke that nevertheless isnt working for him in these preparation games. He can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, although perhaps he lacks a bit of quickness to be more prolific here. He also has some good moves in the low post, but he fails to show them consistently as hes many times outmuscled. Uros tries to make up for these physical flaws with intensity. He seems to be a smart guy, a player that understands the game rather well. Anyway, hes still not as consistent as would be desired, although he might be on the verge of overcoming this issue.
Erazem Lorbek, 6-11, PF/C, Climamio Bologna, 21 years old
After helping his team win the Italian league championship a few months ago, being named as the Under 22 MVP of the Euroleague and being drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the mid-2nd round this past June, Erazem Lorbek is continuing to add on to his excellent resume with an appearance in the Eurobasket tournament with his native country of Slovenia.
From what weve learned from the preparatory games so far, Lorbek actually has a decent chance of being a contributor on this Slovenian team, although he will almost surely be coming off the bench backing up Rasho Nesterovic and Primoz Brezec. He was the hero last week in Turkey as Slovenia downed Serbia and Montenegro with a three point basket and the foul in the last seconds of the game to give his team the win.
Were talking about a prototypical European big man here. Lorbek has outstanding size at 6-11 and a wide array of skills which make him a really interesting high post threat who can deliver using many different options offensively. He is a terrific shooter for a guy his size, possessing excellent form, a quick release and range out to the NBA three point line. Hes a very coordinated big man who is at his best on the pick and roll, thanks to his outstanding off the ball movement. If he gets the ball in the high post and his shot is not there, he shows a nice handle for a guy his size and can put the ball and the floor and make his way to the basket. Hes not the most athletic guy in the world, but still runs the floor well and plays actively and with a lot of energy. His basketball IQ is high and this really comes to play in his ability to fit into a half court offense and especially pass the ball. Hes an unselfish player who understands the game and fit into his role extremely well this year for long stretches in the Euroleague. You can tell that he comes from a basketball family as he clearly has the instincts of a basketball player. Hes become a much tougher player since his days at Michigan State, not looking afraid to bang at all and always giving all he has down in the low post.
His biggest deficiency and really the only thing that held him back from being a first round pick is the fact that his athleticism is well below average compared with power forwards in the NBA. His footspeed is poor and this really hurts him especially on the defensive end where he will most likely be a liability in his first few years should he stick. His lateral quickness both in the post and on the perimeter just arent good enough, while his vertical leap extremely average, barely being able to get off the ground to challenge shots. This hurts his ability to finish around the basket on the offensive end in Europe as well, as the way he takes the ball up soft at the rim is something that just wont fly at the top levels of play.
Lorbek will be looking to continue his steady improvement over the past few years and entrench himself an important player on a strong Euroleague team playing for Climamio. This tournament is a great chance for him to prove himself against the best players Europe has to offer. Its also not a bad place to start the contract negotiations for next year by impressing the team that holds his NBA rights as of this past summer, the Indiana Pacers.
Henry Domercant, 6-3, Shooting Guard, Efes Pilsen, 25 years old
The Haitian born Domercant is coming off a breakout year in Europe. After signing with Efes Pilsen, Domercant shined in the Euroleague with a string of excellent performances. He will be a newcomer in the Bosnian team and is already seen as the biggest weapon they have next to Damir Mrsic.
Trading an EU passport (and therefore becoming more attractive to top-tier European teams in the process) in return for serving time and providing an athletic offensive boost for a lower level European national team as Domercant is doing right now is something that is becoming more of a common occurrence in Eastern Europe these days, as we saw Shammond Williams receive something similar from the Republic of Georgia last year. The Bosnian government granted Domercant an honorary citizenship (as they do in other areas besides sports) because of his expected contributions to the country.
Domercant is an explosive player with tremendous ability to finish at the offensive end. There is nothing he can't do at the European level: He has three point range, an extremely quick penetration with the ability to finish strongly and a very athletic body which allows him to take and make many tough shots. He has also improved on the defensive end this last year as well. He is very good defending one on one situations, but also likes to risk a lot in hopes of coming up with loose balls.
Domercant also played in the NBA summer league this year and had a few good games mixed in with some very poor ones. Its clear that for the NBA level Domercant lacks PG skills, but also quite a bit of consistency as well. Often how well he plays comes down to his motivation and how he is able to start off games. He must continue to develop his confidence on the court, especially with his shot. When his long-range jumper is on, he becomes an extremely difficult player to stop.
On the other hand, Domercant isn't a player who has the ability to win games and still be effective if he struggles during the game. So, for him it's either all or nothing.
Considering the lack of help for Damir Mrsic in years past, Bosnia now comes with a very dangerous backcourt duo who can easily keep up with anything their opponents can throw at him. For opponents it will be important to control Domercant in the first minutes, because that seems like the most sure-fire way to slow him down.
Damir Mrsic, 6-3, Point Guard, Fenerbahce, 35 years old
Bosnian point guard Damir Mrsic is one of the most experienced and consistent players in Europe. Spending many years in Turkey, he always averaged 18-25 points per game. He also averaged 8.2 assists per game just a few years ago.
Mrsic is the star of the Bosnian team, always leading the team in scoring. Jump shots, that's what makes him often unstoppable and his biggest weapon since he started playing basketball. Mrsic has incredible range with perfect technique. Being 35 years old may lead to the opinion that his physical condition does not look that good anymore. But that's not the case, far from it. Despite his age, Mrsic played 35-38 minutes per game for Fenerbahce last year. Fans admire his attitude towards sports. However, there is one thing which didnt allow him to play for a top club in Europe: Defense.
We can easily say: If Mrsic had learned to defend early on in his career, he would be one of the biggest stars in European basketball. Mrsic is facing big difficulties defending quick point guards. Thats why fans can expect some zone variations by the Bosnian coach.- But this is no reason to underestimate Mrsics performance. He outplayed point guards like Tony Parker in the last European championship at Sweden in a very damaging way. Another important fact is that Mrsic knows his own capacity and dont try to exaggerate on the court. So, together with Domercant, Bosnia has a very dangerous duo at the guard positions, especially in terms of outside shooting. Mrsic probably wont score as much as he did in past tournaments, but its obvious that Bosnia will need him, whether as a scoring option, as a leader or as a point guard who leads the team offense.
Mirza Teletovic, 6-9, Power Forward, Oostende, 19 years old
Teletovic has been playing power forward this last season, and he will probably stick to this position for the tournament. Hes strong enough to be effective in the low post, gaining room with his body, and never being afraid of physical contact. Hes not awfully skilled there, as he doesnt feature fancy movements, but he gets good position to release turnaround jumpers near the basket. Besides, like most of the modern power forwards in Europe, he has three-point range. On defense, hes rather quick at the four position, although also undersized, which makes things easy for taller counterparts. The real potential of this player would rest in his ability to play small forward, where he would still feature enough athleticism and the right size. But he might be too big for that position, perhaps not enjoying as much quickness and elasticity as you would like for a perimeter guy, while he also doesnt show that much perimeter skill beyond his shot. Hes young, though, and has time to improve and develop his game in many ways. For starters, this tournament could be an excellent chance to evaluate him against top competition.