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World Cup disappointment fuels Germany's hunger to put things right
HAGEN (Germany) -It's often said that what defines a team after a heavy defeat is not the loss itself, but rather how it responds.
Bear that in mind when making a judgement on Germany's national team which, after an impressive European Qualifiers campaign for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, endured setbacks to France and the Dominican Republic by a combined six points at the start of the tournament to crash out of contention for a spot in the Second Round.
"THIS IS STILL A TEAM THAT I TRULY BELIEVE IN. WE HAVE OUR EYES ON NEXT SUMMER, WHICH IS AWESOME THAT WE CAN BRING THE GROUP BACK AND TRY TO QUALIFY FOR THE OLYMPICS."
How will Germany respond? The squad already provided a reaction by finishing its World Cup participation with convincing triumphs over Jordan, Senegal and Canada, wins that helped seal a spot in one of next year's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).
"This is still a team that I truly believe in," Germany coach Henrik Rodl said. "We have our eyes on next summer. It is awesome that we can bring the group back and try to qualify for the Olympics and be in this tournament."
With players like Daniel Theis, Maxi Kleber and Schroder, Germany have the talent to contend for a spot in the Olympics
"And then obviously we have big things ahead with the EuroBasket in Germany after that. I'm really happy that at least we have this chance to be together next summer because it's going to be very important for us in the long run," he said.
Before then, Germany will also have games in the FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Qualifiers, tipping off their campaign against France on February 20. Having already secured a spot in the tournament as the primary host of the Final Round, the Germans will still want to perform well in the Qualifiers. In addition to France, Germany will face Montenegro and Great Britain.
As for the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, Rodl knows he'll need point guard Dennis Schroder to be in top form. He expects his star playmaker to better than ever by next summer.
"What impresses me most about Dennis is that every year, he comes in and he's improved," Rodl said. "He's extremely hardworking on his skills. His skills get better. But also, he grows as a person, as a leader of this group."
Despite posting big numbers in the losses to France and Dominican Republic, when he averaged 21.5 points and 7.5 assists, Schroder shot just 32.4 percent (12 of 37) from the floor. He also had four turnovers in both defeats.
"I thought that he was not in his best shape in the first two games but played himself into shape," Rodl said.
"He was there from the beginning and tried as hard as he could. He's a tremendous player. It's (Germany's performance at the World Cup) going to make him stronger, too. He thrives on adversity and he'll be better next year."
Rodl thinks Germany can bounce back and contend for a spot in next year's Tokyo Olympics. He will adhere to the philosophy that he learned under his college coach at the University of North Carolina, the late Dean Smith.
"He instilled in all of us players that if we played hard and played together, and give everything you have and add a little smarts to that, then you have a chance to win," Rodl said. "This is something that carries over (to my coaching)."
That approach, and a burning desire to put things right after China, would give Germany a chance to be a serious contender for one of the four remaining Olympic berths.