Follow FIBA on Facebook

22 Dmitrii Kulagin (RUS)
Jeff Taylor's Eurovision
to read

Kulagin, Karasev ready to lead the way for Russia

VALENCIA (Jeff Taylor's Eurovision) - Russia won't have all their weapons at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers at France on February 23 and then at home against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Perm two days later.

They will have real firepower, though.

While BC Khimki's Alexei Shved, the player who averaged 24.3 points per game at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 and made the All-Star Five, won't be there, Dmitrii Kulagin, Sergey Karasev and 10 others will be ready for the fight.

It's time for Lokomotiv Kuban's Kulagin, the 25-year-old who shone at the EuroBasket (he had 14 points in the Round of 16 triumph over Croatia), to lead his country. He sounds ready.

"Alexei is the best sniper (shooter) in Europe, and his absence in the team, one way or another, will be noticeable," Kulagin said. "But even without him, great players are called to the national team who play the leading roles in their clubs.

"As for me, Russia is my native country, thanks to which I am who I am. I don't need additional motivation for playing for the national team."

Zenit St Petersburg's Karasev, 24, missed Russia's narrow defeat at Bosnia and Herzegovina on November 24 but three days later had 14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in their 76-69 win over Belgium.

The VTB United League MVP of January, Karasev on Saturday had 29 points and 7 assists for the Russian Stars in their 125-124 victory over the World Stars and scooped the VTB All-Star Game MVP honor. He's now thinking about the game against France.

Karasev, speaking to R-Sport about the France game, said: "'Of course I'm ready!'"

Russia on Friday announced Kulagin's Lokomotiv Kuban teammates Vladimir Ivlev and Pavel Antipov and Avtador Saratov's Artem Klimenko had picked up injuries and are out. The federation also announced the contingent of players from CSKA Moscow won't take part. Two players that are coming are UNICS Kazan's 24-year-old forward Vladislav Trushkin and 28-year-old Khimki guard Vyacheslav Zaitsev.

The France v Russia game is going to be one of the most interesting World Cup Qualifiers on February 23.

One other thing about Karasev. He died his hair silver for the All-Star Game and because it seemed to bring him luck, he's going to keep that color for the World Cup Qualifiers.

Speaking of UNICS Kazan, how about their point guard Quino Colom?! Spain's best player in their November Qualifiers victories at Montenegro and at home over Slovenia will be with the team when it plays Belarus in Minsk on February 23 and then hosts Montenegro in Zaragoza on February 26.

Colom came up with an eye-opening play in Saturday's VTB-League All-Star Game.

Sergio Scariolo, the national team coach, is giving another veteran point guard in Spain, Rodrigo San Miguel, a chance. He named the Iberostar Tenerife playmaker in the national squad this week and said: "Rodrigo San Miguel is one of the players that has always been close to the national team but due to the number of great quality players, many top ones in his place, he hasn't been able to make his debut."

There are other interesting storylines. Great Britain had a shock announcement this week that their coach, Tony Garbelotto, had stepped down for personal reasons. Leading the team into battle at Israel will be his assistant, Alberto Lorenzo of Spain.

Mike Taylor, the coach of Poland, told me he's very excited about the potential impact of what he called "skilled big man" Jakub Wojciechowski. 

Georgia boss Ilias Zouros said that while he'd like to have more veterans in his squad, he's also thrilled to be giving minutes to Merab Bokolishvili, Mikhail Berishvili and Goga Bitadze.

"These players have more time," he said, "have a chance to improve, a chance to be more useful and have more responsibility for the game." 

Henrik Rodl, the Germany coach who won a EuroBasket in 1993 as a player, is fired up about facing Serbia in Frankfurt in a battle of 2-0 teams.

"I think we've witnessed again the importance of international competition in basketball," he said. "The fans have accepted it and they always want to see their team play. International competitions are special and that's what you see."

Jeff Taylor

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor, a North Carolina native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate, has been a journalist since 1990. He started covering international basketball after moving to Europe in 1996. Jeff provides insight and opinion every week about players and teams on the old continent that are causing a buzz.