Bitadze backs Georgia for EuroBasket success behind Tbilisi X-factor
TBILISI (Georgia) - Goga Bitadze believes Georgia are capable of making some noise at FIBA EuroBasket 2022 as they get set to host part of the big event for the first time later this summer.
Georgian capital Tbilisi is one of four cities to host the group phase of Europe's major tournament with Bitadze looking forward to the prospect of being able to showcase their talent.
"WE HAVE THE POTENTIAL AND TALENT TO BEAT SOME VERY GOOD TEAMS, I AM SURE ABOUT THAT."
"It's so great, and such a great thing for our country," Bitadze told FIBA.basketball. "We've never played EuroBasket at home (before), so it's going to be a fantastic experience for both the players and the people of Georgia.
"We have some great talent, our team is very talented and we are going to give everything to make our compatriots proud. We have the potential and talent to beat some very good teams, I am sure about that. I really can’t wait to play there. It's going to be a very fun learning experience for all of us."
Bitadze is fresh off of a third season in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers and can now look forward to national team duty. The chance to play a major tournament on home soil holds deep meaning, and the 22-year-old is hoping the home support can be a significant advantage.
"[Our goal is] to do a great First Round at home and use our sixth man or X-factor of being with our fans to win the most games we can," said Bitadze. "They are going to show up, their support is going to be massive and that is going to be a great boost for us, that's for sure.
"Our job is to go out there and do as much as we can to get a great tournament. First, is to get out of the group stage and in the knockout rounds, anybody can beat any team. Having fans on our side, we can beat anybody at home if we play at our best level."
Georgia made their tournament debut in 2011 and are set for their fifth consecutive EuroBasket appearance having qualified as co-hosts. Their best finish was an 11th place achieved 11 years ago, and they have yet to record more than two wins in a single tournament.
"I have a feeling that this summer a lot of NBA guys are going to show up and play for their national team, it’s going to be good to see and to experience this." - Goga Bitadze
That likely needs to change if they are to make it to the knockout stages later this summer, though their task is far from simple with reigning world champions Spain joining them in Group A alongside Turkey, Belgium, Bulgaria and Montenegro.
"It’s a tough group," stated Bitadze. "Every team is very competitive, there are no small teams in the tournament anymore. I have a feeling that this summer a lot of NBA guys are going to show up and play for their national team, it’s going to be good to see and to experience this.
"It’s going to be a great challenge for us, but also for the other teams that we are going to play against. We are going to put a lot of energy, a lot of defense and we want to win games and go far in the competition.
"I think it’s better to play against good teams in the group stage in order to be ready for the next rounds. You know what kind of opponents you are going to face, and playing against great teams always makes you more ready for what’s next."
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Bitadze missed out on the last edition in 2017 because of injury and the inclusion of the seven-footer would add to the already imposing presence Georgia have inside with their frontcourt depth.
And, that is something they will look to utilize on the big stage.
"Size is a big factor, that is for sure," Bitadze says. "We have a very dominant interior sector, with Sandro [Mamukelashvili], Toko Shengelia and [Giorgi] Shemardini and myself - we can do a great job. We can clean the glass, grab a lot of rebounds and also, we can shoot.
"All of us can shoot, our guards can shoot, young guns like Rati Andronaskevili can defend hard and also shoot very well, so we have a lot of weapons.
"I think we have a very balanced group of players, and we have a lot of talent, but also experienced guys, like Giorgi and Toko for example. To have veterans like this on the team, it’s a huge bonus, a huge plus for the national team."
Before EuroBasket, the primary goal is taking the next steps in the pursuit of a historic maiden appearance at the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Georgia have made an encouraging start in the European Qualifiers with Bitadze looking to play his part in the upcoming windows that tips off on June 30.
"I will always try to help my country every time I can do so," he concluded. "I dream of playing a lot of competitions with the national team, EuroBasket, the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Olympics, so I am going to try to help the national team make the most of every opportunity I can take part in.
"By getting to the next round and having two great games in August, we could be in a great dynamic for the beginning of the EuroBasket."