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Ukraine show off their talent ahead of FIBA EuroBasket 2017
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Ukraine show off their talent ahead of FIBA EuroBasket 2017

KYIV (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - Ukraine head coach Ievgen Murzin included all of the country’s big names in the preliminary squad for FIBA EuroBasket 2017, headlined by frontcourt talent and depth many other national teams can only envy.

Ukraine preliminary 25-player squad for FIBA EuroBasket 2017
Klym Artamonov Bogdan Bliznyuk V'Yacheslav Bobrov Joel Bolomboy Kyrylo Fesenko
Volodymyr Gerun Sergii Gladyr  Eugene Jeter Oleksandr Kolchenko Volodymyr Koniev
Maksym Korniienko Viachelsav Kravtsov Pavlo Krutous Alex Len Oleksandr Lypovyy
Denys Lukashov Olexandr Mishula Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Ruslan Otverchenko Viacheslav Petrov
Artem Pustovy Maksym Pustozvonov Oleksandr Riabchuck Stanislav Tymofeyenko Igor Zaitsev

The star-studded list contains 16 foreign-based athletes, including both of the country’s NBA representatives – Alex Len of the Phoenix Suns and Joel Bolomboy of the Utah Jazz, both yet to make their debut for the men's national team.

"We aren't sure about their participation yet, but both Len and Bolomboy want to play for the national team," Murzin told Ukrainian media, pointing out that, at this point, the arrival of Bolomboy was more likely, as Len is heading into free agency uncertainty this summer.

The coaching staff will also have Viacheslav Kravtsov, Kyrylo Fesenko, Maksym Korniienko, Maksym Pustozvonov and players further down the list like V’Yacheslav Bobrov, Volodymyr Koniev and Ihor Zaytsev to choose from when making the final selections.

"I think the power forward and center positions are our biggest strength. The competition among the big men will be very serous," the coach spoke.

At the same time, the abundance of frontcourt options makes Ukraine's fragility in both guard positions even more glaring. While the country’s two backcourt standouts Sergii Gladyr and Eugene 'Pooh' Jeter are on the preliminary squad, their availability for FIBA EuroBasket 2017 remains questionable.

The potential absence of sharpshooter Gladyr, who had a great season in the Basketball Champions League with AS Monaco, would be a particularly painful blow.

"We will most likely not have him on the team. After ending the season in France, he'll undergo surgery and his will not recover in time to participate in the tournament," Murzin said.

That being said, playing without the team's nominal starting backcourt wouldn't be entirely new territory for Ukraine, who already had to do without Gladyr and Jeter in the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers.

Knee concerns could keep Sergii Gladyr out of the national team

In their absence, coach Murzin delegated the primary ball-handling duties to the versatile 6ft 6in (201 cm) point forward Oleksandr Lypovyy, who did a fine job, averaging 6.7 points, 5.3 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals last summer.

Enisey Krasnoyarsk guard Denys Lukashov, who led the national team in efficiency last year, could also stand to see a similarly increased role, with Ruslan Otverchenko and Oleksandr Riabchuck soaking up the rest of the minutes.

If coach Murzin decides to set his sights on the future, it could lead to the soon-to-be 20-year-old Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk earning a spot in the senior side for the very first time.

The talented up-and-coming shooting guard, who spent the last three years in NCAA with Kansas, is expected to suit up for Ukraine at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2017 in Crete, but will join the men's national team afterwards.

Ukraine, who begin their training camp in Kyiv on July 15, will be tested by the Netherlands, Italy, Belarus, Great Britain, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey and Montenegro in friendly games leading up to the start of FIBA EuroBasket 2017.

Having been drawn to the Tel Aviv-based Group B, coach Murzin’s side will take on Germany, Georgia, Italy, Israel and Lithuania come the end of August.