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EuroBasket Women success gets thumbs-up from Spanish, Belgium men's teams
VALENCIA (Jeff Taylor's Eurovision) - There were many unforgettable moments from the FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 in the Czech Republic so it's not surprising that everyone's still talking about the tournament.
That includes two prominent coaches of men's teams, Spain boss Sergio Scariolo and Belgium head honcho Eddy Casteels.
Before announcing his squad of players for a couple of training camps ahead of the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 this week, Scariolo said: "I join everyone in saying congratulations to our girls and to my friend, Lucas Mondelo, regarding the success that has filled us with so much joy."
That success was the Spanish team's second FIBA EuroBasket Women crown since 2013. Spain lost just once in the Czech Republic in June and that was against the hosts in a clash that had no permutations on the standings. Spain are, quite simply, on a roll! They finished runners-up at the 2014 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup and got silver at the Rio Olympics.
Spain's women play the beautiful game. They run, they run some more and then they run some more. It's not a methodical run this play, use up all 24 seconds on the shot-clock basketball. It's an emotional, firebrand, high-octane hoops that allows freakishly good Alba Torrens, Marta Xargay and everyone else to go crazy in a full-court basketball game. Mondelo is a player's coach, too. He has fun. When was the last time you heard a coach sing Julio Iglesias and Frank Sinatra tunes in back-to-back press conferences?
Then there was Casteels, the long-time Belgium coach who, like everyone else in his country, was captivated by the Emma Meesseman-led Belgian Cats at the FIBA EuroBasket Women.
Belgium did their own version of Thriller in the Group Phase, beating Montenegro (66-64), Russia (76-75) and Latvia (62-58) before turning on the style against Italy (79-66) in the Quarter-Finals and Greece (78-45) in the Third-Place Game.
When announcing his team's preparation plans ahead of their FIBA EuroBasket campaign, Casteels was asked how he felt about the women's team.
He answered in Flemish "verdomd jaloers" which translates to "damn jealous".
There must be some envy heading in the other direction, too. What is there not to like about Scariolo and Casteels, after everything they've been able to achieve over the years. The former was the first to admit in 2009 after leading Spain to their first FIBA EuroBasket crown that the country's basketball federation had handed him the keys to the Ferrari, so loaded was the roster with superstar talent. His finest hour, though, has to be the FIBA EuroBasket 2015 title and especially the overtime win over hosts France in the Semi-Finals. That Spain team had great talent, but not as much as previous editions.Talent alone does not win championships. To win at the highest level in international basketball, the coach needs the right game-plan and he has to put his players in the right position to win games. Team chemistry is vital and getting everyone to buy in to the approach is, too. Remember how Croatia shocked Italy at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Turin last year? Aco Petrovic came up with the right strategy, to almost always have the ball in the hands of Dario Saric, Bojan Bogdanovic and Krunoslav Simon and everything went according to plan.
Casteels has far less weapons to work with in Belgium but he does things so well that the Lions are always eating at the big table. The national team has qualified for the last four FIBA EuroBaskets and claimed some famous scalps along the way.
Belgium's women were able to knock off a giant by stunning Russia, which was just one of their spine-tingling victories. Maybe it's going to inspire Belgium and help them advance from a tough Group D in Istanbul and make it as far as the Quarter-Finals of FIBA EuroBasket 2017.
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