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Lehto, Nuutinen grab places in Finnish squad
HELSINKI (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Antero Lehto must have wondered if his chance to play for Finland's senior team would ever come.
The 30-year-old point guard finally knows that the answer is "yes".
The 1.85m Lehto, who put on a dazzling display for Tampereen Pyrinto in the Finnish league in 2013-14, especially in the playoffs, is one of three newcomers to the Finnish squad that will play at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
Erik Murphy, fresh off a rookie campaign in the NBA, and Matti Nuutinen are also players to enter the squad who did not feature in last year’s EuroBasket team.
Nuutinen, 24, helped Finland reach EuroBasket 2013, averaging 14.5 minutes per contest in their qualifying campaign.
Lehto thrust himself into contention for a spot on the roster with some terrific displays in the domestic league.
In Game 4 of the Finals, Lehto had 12 points and five assists to lead Tampereen Pyrinto past Kataja, 88-78, for a 3-1 series triumph.
He had poured in 10 points in Game 1, 21 in Game 2 and 23 in Game 3.
Lehto was 28 of 62 (45.2 percent) from behind the arc in the playoffs.
He connected on nine of his 19 attempts from long range against Kataja.
Murphy was a virtual lock to make the squad when he joined the preparations after playing for the Utah Jazz in the NBA summer league. He brings height (2.08m), which should fortify the front court for coach Henrik Dettmann, although he will spend time on the perimeter since he is such a good shooter.
Nuutinen is a 2.00m forward on the books of Loimaa Bisons.
Captain Hanno Mottola has capped his comeback from a serious knee injury that cut short his EuroBasket 2013 by making the squad, with Petteri Koponen, Gerald Lee, Shawn Huff, Mikko Koivisto, Sasu Salin, Teemu Rannikko, Kimmo Murinen and Tuukka Kotti also in.
All nine played on the team that finished ninth at last year’s EuroBasket in Slovenia.
Dettmann says that competition for the 12 spots was as fierce as it has ever been.
"I have never previously been in a similar situation," he said.
"It's a reflection on how important the team's cohesion has increased."
Dettmann's Finland will this weekend square off against France and Australia in a tournament in Strasbourg.
At the World Cup in Spain, Finland will play in Group C, in Bilbao, against the United States, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Turkey and New Zealand.
Both the Finns and Turks received wild cards to take part in the 24-team tournament.
Finland squad for FIBA Basketball World Cup: Hanno Mottola, Petteri Koponen, Gerald Lee, Shawn Huff, Mikko Koivisto, Sasu Salin, Teemu Rannikko, Kimmo Murinen, Tuukka Kotti, Matti Nuutinen, Erik Murphy and Antero Lehto.