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August 2017
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Group A Preview: Can Lithuania pave the way to a third straight Final against Croatia, Israel and Serbia?

PODGORICA (FIBA U16 European Championship 2017) - The FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 is nearing tip-off - and with it the quest for five tickets to the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2017. This is the start of the preview series, looking at Group A which includes the 2010 and 2011 FIBA U16 European Championship winners Croatia, Israel, the 2008 champions and 2015 and 2016 finalists Lithuania and Serbia, whose last U16 continental title dates back to 2007.


Matej Rudan (with trophy) will be one of the major leaders for Croatia in Montenegro.

Players to Watch: Croatia have a loaded roster with plenty of talent to watch out for - which could also be a major benefit as someone else can step up each game. One of the leaders will be Matej Rudan, who played at U18 continental club competitions this season for Cibona. Ivan Perasovic is the 2002-born son of Croatian senior national team coach Velimir Perasovic. Boris Tisma from Real Madrid is also a year younger and just as impressive, whilst the group also includes Matej Bosnjak and Roko Gizdavcic.

Outlook: This has been a good summer for Croatian youth hoops as the country secured promotion back to Division A at the FIBA U20 European Championship and FIBA U18 European Championship. Now it's the U16 team's turn as they look to qualify for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup for the first time since 2012 after Croatia won back-to-back FIBA U16 European Championship crowns in 2010 and 2011. Croatia last summer finally got past the Quarter-Finals for the first time since the 2011 title, finishing fourth overall. A top-five finish is the minimum goal for Croatians to reach the U17 global spectacle.


Raziel Hayun will be the captain for Israel at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017.

Players to Watch: Raziel Hayun is the only returning player from the Israeli team that earned promotion from Division B last summer. The small forward will be the captain for Israel and will be one of the team's two major leaders. The other is Danny Abadia. The shooting guard is a sniper who is also athletic and can handle the ball. Any chances for Israel to have success in Montenegro will also rely on 6ft 10in (2.08m) Yonatan Atias, who is the country's only real big man. Abadia and Atias both play for Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Outlook: Israel have been riding the FIBA U16 European Championship rollercoaster the past three years, earning promotion in 2014 by making the Division B final. A 15th place finish at Division A in 2015 sent Israel back down before Hayun and Co. reached the Division B final last summer to return to the top flight. The number one goal for the Israelis in Montenegro will be to stop their rollercoaster ride and avoid relegation.


Laurynas Vaistaras hopes to jump one step higher on the podium this summer with Lithuania.

Players to Watch: Lithuania come into the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 after back-to-back second-placed finishes. The team will likely be very balanced - but talented. Laurynas Vaistaras will captain the team as the only returnee from last summer's team. But he is only one of Lithuania's highly regarded prospects. Marek Blazevic might be the top gem of the generation as a two-way player who excels at both ends. Modestas Kancleris has already played for Zalgiris Kaunas at U18 European club level at 15 years old, while Erikas Jermolajevas has been given minutes in the RKL third division for Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius.

Outlook: Lithuania's 2001 generation is looking to do what the 1999 and 2000-born groups could not - win Lithuania's second FIBA U16 European Championship and join history alongside 2008 U16 champion Jonas Valanciunas. The Lithuanians both times were stopped by remarkable performances in the Final with Dzanan Musa collecting 33 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists for Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015 and then Usman Garuba picking up a triple double (15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks) for Spain in the 2016 Final. The Lithuanians will come into the tournament as the freshly-crowned European Youth Olympic Festival champions, beating Turkey 103-101 in double-overtime.


Lazar Zivanovic wants to make good on last summer's disappointment.

Players to Watch: Serbia continue to churn out the talent and the 2001 generation is no exception. Djordje Pazin will lead the way for the Serbs in Podgorica after playing for Stellazzurra Roma at the U18 European club level - for a second season. Pazin is a 6ft 6in (1.97m) guard who can score at will but also play the point. Lazar Zivanovic gives Serbia some great production from the wing - and another talent who has jumped to the U18 level with Red Star Belgrade. As has Partizan Belgrade's 6ft 9in (2.05m) center Dusan Tanaskovic.

Outlook: Serbia have roared back this summer after having the country's worst-ever youth national team campaign last year - 10th place at the FIBA U16 and U18 European Championships and 11th place at the FIBA U20 European Championship. The Serbs took fifth at U20 level this summer and won the U18 title last week. The number one goal for Serbia is a top-five finish and a return to the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup. But of course the Serbs would love to win two titles in one summer - and capture their first U16 crown since 2007 when Serbia swept the podiums - winning the U16, U18 and U20 continental crowns as well as the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup.