Qualified Team Focus - Georgia: McFadden, Shengelia, Shermadini and co. ready for more history
MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, presented by Wanda, will be held in Manila, Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.
Here is the number 32 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, World Cup debutants Georgia.
🇬🇪 𝐇𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐎𝐑𝐘 𝐅𝐎𝐑 𝐆𝐄𝐎𝐑𝐆𝐈𝐀 🇬🇪— FIBA Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) February 26, 2023
Georgia are going to the FIBA Basketball World Cup for the first time in their history! 💥#FIBAWC x #WinForGeorgia pic.twitter.com/llFaqIpMIN
How did they qualify
Georgia started their European Qualifiers campaign hoping to reach the World Cup for the first time. And it was the second attempt for the country's Greek coach Ilias Zouros, who has been in charge of the Georgian team since 2016. The Crusaders had a colossal effort by their big three of Thad McFadden, Giorgi Shermadini and Toko Shengelia. And Georgia's fight for the World Cup was so tight, they advanced despite a loss in their final decisive game.
Georgia's campaign started in November 2021 with a thrilling 88-83 home win over Ukraine in Group G as McFadden, Shermadini and Shengelia combined for 66 points. The window finished with an 89-61 road loss to Spain. The February 2022 window saw McFadden dominate with 50 combined points in two wins over North Macedonia - 91-70 at home and 79-65 on the road.
The summer started with a 79-66 loss to Ukraine in Latvia despite McFadden's 22 points and 21 points from Shengelia. But the June/July 2022 window saw one of Georgia's greatest victories in history. With a crowd of 8,500 fans opening the new Tbilisi Arena, Georgia knocked off reigning world champions Spain 82-76 in overtime. The game featured 22 lead changes and in addition to the big three collecting 46 points and 16 assists, Rati Andronikashvili scored 17 points.
Starting the Second Round Group L, Georgia wasted a 16-point lead at home against Netherlands in the August 2022 window but McFadden, Shermadini and Shengelia combined for 53 points and Sandro Mamukelashvi added 10 points and 10 rebounds in a 77-66 victory. Georgia could not get a second win though, losing at Italy 91-84 despite Goga Bitadze tallying 19 points and 13 rebounds and George Tsintsadze dishing out 11 assists.
The FIBA EuroBasket 2022 took center stage in September 2022 and co-hosts Georgia managed just a 1-4 record in the First Round - a double-overtime win over Turkey. The first game of the November 2022 window laid the foundation for Georgia reaching the World Cup as Shengelia had 27 points and 11 rebounds in an 88-85 win at Iceland. Georgia dropped the second game in the window 85-84 to Italy at home in front of 8,121 supporters.
That set the stage for the final window in February 2023 and the big three combined for 67 points in a narrow 88-80 win at Netherlands. That meant Georgia could afford a three-point loss at home to Iceland in the final qualifying game and still make history. Some 10,000 fans showed up at the Tbilisi Arena and witnessed their iconic trio totalling 60 points which proved just enough in an 80-77 loss with 15 lead changes to reach the World Cup.
Best result at the World Cup
Georgia will be making their first appearance at the World Cup after long establishing themselves in Europe. The eastern Europeans have made five straight appearances at the FIBA EuroBasket, including co-hosting the event in 2022. Their best finish of 11th place came at their debut in 2011 and the country has yet to record more than two wins in a single tournament.
Last World Cup appearances
While Georgia have become regulars at EuroBasket, the country had only participated in one World Cup qualification campaign before the 2023 European Qualifiers. Coach Zouros guided his team out of the First Round of the 2019 qualifiers but then finished fourth of six teams in the Second Round to just miss out on China 2019.
Players to watch
Georgia could have one of the most dominant trios at the World Cup as Thad McFadden, Toko Shengelia and Giorgi Shermadini scored 59.9 percent of the country's points in the European Qualifiers. And those three will undoubtedly play a major role in any chance Georgia has in Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
Giorgi Shermadini and Toko Shengelia
But Coach Zouros will have two more weapons which he only had for two games in the European Qualifiers: the NBA duo of Sandro Mamukelashvili and Goga Bitadze, who combined for 45 points, 33 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals in the August 2022 window.
Other players who have shown they can step up and help the team in a major way have been George Tsintsadze, Rati Andronikashvili, Duda Sanadze and Kakhaber Jintcharadze. Among others who will likely make the team are Beka Bekauri, Mikhail Berishvili, Merab Bokolishvili and Beka Burjanadze.
Qualified Team Focus series
Please check the teams we have already broken down. In the past weeks, before the last qualifications that happened in February 2023, we have ordered them by their position in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike:
Spain, Australia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, Germany, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, USA, Serbia, Brazil, Venezuela, Montenegro, Puerto Rico, Iran, Dominican Republic, China, Latvia. and Mexico.