Russia tests basketball youth ahead of world championships
David Blatt has called up a number of talented youngsters from across the country to see if they can challenge the old guard for a spot in his final roster.
“I don’t think that this group is the most talented group, but I surely know that they are the hardest working group and I know that they have done the best at adjusting the material and executing the things that we wanted to do in the camp,” David Blatt said.
Despite the optimism, the majority of these basketballers are already in their early 20s. However, none of them are playing key roles for top clubs in Europe, let alone Russia. This is head coach Blatt's biggest problem – how to strengthen a squad that doesn't have a lot of depth?
“I’m still looking for another Kirilenko or another Khryapa to come down the pipe. For example, last year with the emergence of Timofey Mozgov and Sasha Kaun… you see what a terrific job they did this year in the Euroleague. And now I feel we have two young centers for the future of the next ten years of Russian basketball at a high level,” the Russian coach explained.
The development of young Russian basketballers is not helped by the strength and the wealth of the domestic league.
Top clubs are able to bring in the best players from around Europe, meaning those just starting out their career's often find it difficult to get enough playing time.
“Certainly, the rule on having two Russian players on the court at any one time helps players to get time and to play big roles on the respective clubs. But we are not seeing many Russian players playing outside of Russia. I am not saying that they have to, but generally in almost every league in Europe you see some of the better players getting outside and spending time – at least a part of their careers – to show themselves or to make a step up or have new experience. And when these guys come back they bring new life to their local basketball league,” Blatt stressed.
David Blatt's search, as has been the case for the last couple of years, to find a new Andrey Kirilenko is ongoing. However, Russia's head coach has to make do with what he has got, and he will be doing his utmost to try and make sure his team put on a good show at the World Championships.