22 November, 2021
28 February, 2023
23 heroes from the European Qualifiers
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The heroes of the Qualifiers: Who played every game?

MUNICH (Germany) - They might not wear capes, but 23 players can be considered heroes for their commitment to their national teams as they appeared in all of their country's games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers.

In total, 23 players from 12 countries showed up for all six World Cup Qualifiers windows from November 2021 to February 2023; 20 of them playing all 12 games of the European Qualifiers and three in all 10 of their respective nation's games.

Four countries have three ironmen on their squads, as the coaches of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Georgia and Latvia were able to rely on a strong core to start their planning. Israel, Montenegro and Iceland for their part each had two players appear in all their games.

Iceland had an especially strong commitment from the players as four more players appeared in nine of the country's 10 games; they were among 10 other players who were just one game shy of hero status.

Here are some of the top teams qualified for the World Cup in terms of heroes:

Finland Finland 

Mikael Jantunen, Sasu Salin, Elias Valtonen

This trio was the rock for the Susijengi as they carried the team through the European Qualifiers in the eight games in which Lauri Markkanen did not play. And even when the country's top star did show up for the two windows, Jantunen, Salin and Valtonen were crucial to the team's success.

Salin led the team in minutes, averaging 13.1 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting from three-point range, while Jantunen chipped in with 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds. Valtonen was also a steady contributor, averaging 8.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Georgia Georgia

Thad McFadden, Giogi Shermadini, Kakhaber Jintcharadze

These three players will go down in Georgian basketball history for leading the country to their first appearance in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. McFadden and Shermadini were arguably two of the best players in the entire European Qualifiers and a massive reason why the country reached FIBA's flagship event. McFadden led the European Qualifiers in total points scored with 226 points across 12 games, with Shermadini in second place with 196 points. 

Germany Germany

Justus Hollatz

Hollatz absolutely shined when he was given playing time. The point guard's biggest game was the 18-point, 5-rebound, 9-assist outburst against Finland to start the fifth window. He got injured in the early stages of the second game in the window. And the 21-year-old dished out 14 assists to go with 6 points and 6 rebounds in the final game against Finland.

Latvia Latvia

Dairis Bertans, Klavs Cavars, Andrejs Grazulis

Latvia were one of the biggest surprises of the European Qualifiers, delivering a blistering campaign after missing out on the FIBA EuroBasket 2022. They therefore had to go through the Pre-Qualifiers and all three of Bertans, Cavars and Grazulis played in those four games as well. Latvia finished with the best record in the European Qualifiers, winning their final 11 games - losing just their opening game. On top of that were four straight wins in the Pre-Qualifiers. Team captain Bertans led by example, averaging 9.8 points per game, with Grazulis and Cavars also playing significant role in the rotation.

Montenegro Montenegro

Zoran Nikolic, Nemanja Radovic

While players came and went with the Montenegro team, Nikolic and Radovic were always there. While Nikolic served as a role player, Radovic shined more and more over the course of the campaign. With a World Cup spot on the line in the last window, the 31-year-old produced his best two games: 16 points and 11 rebounds against Bosnia and Herzegovina; and 16 points and 9 rebounds versus Czech Republic.

ISL Special mention: Tryggvi Hlinasson, Iceland

Above it was mentioned that the trio of Latvians played in all 12 of their European Qualifiers games on top of their four contests in the Pre-Qualifiers. Tryggvi Hlinasson deserves special notice because he played in all 10 of Iceland's European Qualifiers, but those came after appearing in all 10 of the country's games in the two rounds of the Pre-Qualifiers from February 2020 to August 2021.

Here is the full list of heroes:

Belgium: Alexandre Libert
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Amar Gegic, Aleksandar Lazic, Kenan Kamenjas
Czech Republic: Tomas Kyzlink
Finland: Mikael Jantunen, Sasu Salin; Elias Valtonen
Germany: Justus Hollatz
Georgia: Kakhaber Jintcharadze, Thad McFadden, Giorgi Shermadini
Hungary: Akos Keller
Iceland: Trygvi Hlinasson, Aegir Steinarsson (10 of 10 games)
Israel: Tomer Ginat, Nimrod Levi
Latvia: Dairis Bertans, Klavs Cavars, Andrejs Grazulis
Montenegro: Zoran Nikolic, Nemanja Radovic
Netherlands: Kaye Van Der Vuurst De Vries (10 of 10 games)

The players who appeared in all but one game:

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Adin Vrabac
Hungary: Benedek Varadi
Iceland: Elvar Fridriksson, Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Sygtryggur Bjornsson, Kari Jonsson (all 9 of 10 games)
Serbia: Marko Jagodic-Kuridza
Spain: Joel Parra
Ukraine: Denys Lukashov, Illiya Sydorov