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September 2022
4 Muhamedali Janjeva (KOS), 23 Alexander Mamukelashvili (GEO)
03/05/2022
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Mamukelashvili: ''We want to make our country proud at EuroBasket''

TBILISI (Georgia) - Sandro Mamukelashvili is determined for Georgia to put on a show for their fans as one of the four co-hosts at FIBA EuroBasket 2022 later this year.

The September tournament will mark Georgia's sixth consecutive appearance at EuroBasket and while they are yet to make it to the Quarter-Finals stage, they will have the chance to build early momentum as they play on home soil through the group phase.

Every time the national team plays at home we feel the love of our compatriots and having the first round of a great competition like EuroBasket is a huge thing - Sandro Mamukelashvili 


Mamukelashvili hopes to repay the support of the fans and capitalize on the advantage of playing in front of their passionate supporters in Tbilisi.

"It's a fantastic opportunity and the whole country is going to be behind us, supporting us," the 22-year-old told FIBA.basketball. "Every time the national team plays at home we feel the love of our compatriots and having the first round of a great competition like EuroBasket is a huge thing - we want to make our country proud.

"It [the home crowd] is going to be a sixth man - an x-factor in a way - and we want to win and make them proud of us. The atmosphere, the crowds are going to be fantastic, the arena is going to be packed and making a lot of noise, that is for sure."

Georgia qualified for the rescheduled 2022 edition as co-hosts, but still impressed during the Qualifiers as they finished with a 4-2 record, which included a victory in Belgrade over group winners Serbia. In 2017, Georgia failed to make it past the First Round at EuroBasket as defeat against Ukraine proved costly with the two sides both finishing with two wins from five games.

But how far can they go this time around?

"Well, the goal is to win the most games we can and make it to the next round, that is the first step," says Mamukelashvili. "EuroBasket is such a competitive tournament, and every team can win games and go far.

"It's very open, and when you represent your national team, the players are even more motivated to play at their highest level. We want to show that we have a great national team, and have a great campaign.

"Learning and gaining experience is also going to be very important in order to prepare for the next competitions after this EuroBasket. It's going to be a fantastic tournament I am sure."

 

Mamukelashvili was still a teenager about to begin a freshman year at Seton Hall at the time of the last EuroBasket tournament before making a Senior debut during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers.

One person that has had a major influence on his career - and many other aspiring Georgian players - is Zaza Pachulia, and it was a message on Facebook that led to their first meeting while Pachulia was playing for the Golden State Warriors.

Never meet your heroes, they say. But that old adage does not ring true for Mamukelasvili.


"Zaza is a very close friend, a mentor, like a big brother for me," he said. "It has been like this for many years, and I am so grateful that he is helping me and giving me a lot of advice when we talk together.

"I was super excited, so excited [when we met]. It was such a great moment that I will never forget. He is an idol, a legend for us back home, he has been inspiring so many people back in Georgia.

"Having an NBA player coming from Georgia was such a crazy thing. He is a very respected man in Georgia and one of the most important people in our history. Having him making it in the NBA help open a path for a lot of players, that were and are able to achieve their basketball dreams."

Mamukelashvili is now carrying that baton of representing Georgia in the NBA with the 22-year-old part of Milwaukee Bucks' roster this season. He finished the regular season with a career-high 28 points along with 13 rebounds and 4 assists having also gone up against compatriots Goga Bitadze and Giorgi Bezhanishvili in NBA and NBA G League action.

 

Those younger talents - combined with the star power of Giorgi Shermadini and Tornike Shengelia - provide the sense of optimism for Georgia and they have the potential to make some noise at EuroBasket.

"I think we do have a great roster and size, which is very good. We have a great team that wants to shine at the highest level, and we can play in many different ways. We have big guys who can rebounds and score in the paint, but they can shoot too.

"Having weapons like those are very interesting, and the biggest strength we have also, is that when you wear the national team jersey, you are playing with passion and pushing yourself to the limits. You do everything for your team to win, you give 120 percent of yourself on the court and be a great teammate. We don't only play for us, we play for the whole country.

"We are all proud to wear the national team jersey. It’s nice to see a good mix of younger and older guys, they have experience and we learn a lot from them."

Georgia will come up against reigning FIBA Basketball World Cup champions Spain in the biggest test of Group A as six teams battle it out for the four available spots into the Round of 16, when the tournament progresses onto Berlin, Germany.

"This is a very interesting group, that is for sure," Mamukelashvili concludes. "Spain is a powerhouse, and despite some guys having retired from international duties, they still have a very good team. Every team is going to be difficult to beat, because every player wants to help their national team makes it to the next round and go far in the tournament.

"Every team has a chance to go to the knockout stages. It's going to be a very, very competitive EuroBasket, and we will be ready to compete at our best level. We want to show that our team is very competitive and we want to make the most of the opportunity."

FIBA