Shashkov expects tough fight to get back to Division A
MOSCOW (FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 Division B) – Russia are not accustomed to the FIBA U16 European Championship Division B and team leader Alexander Shashkov knows they will face a major challenge to earn promotion back to Division A.
Russia enter unchartered waters at the tournament from 11-20 August in Sofia, having never played at the Division B at U16 level. And Shashkov is not expecting an easy road back to Division A.
"I think it will be extremely difficult. No game will be an easy one," said Shashkov, who will likely be one of Russia's top weapons in Bulgaria. "Actually I expect every game to be tough. The teams don't know much about each other. I think England and Israel could be very good teams."
When asked if the Russian team feels pressure to earn promotion to Division A, Shashkov said: "Not really. We just have to respect ourselves and show that Russia should play in the top division."
"I think it will be extremely difficult. No game will be an easy one. Actually I expect every game to be tough. The teams don't know much about each other. I think England and Israel could be very good teams." - Shashkov
"It's very unfortunate that we'll be in Division B, but we want to get promotion badly," Shashkov said.
The Russians have been drawn into Group A with Belarus, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Portugal. The top two teams from each of the groups will reach the Quarter-Finals.
"I think it's a good group with strong teams. It's going to be tough and we will have to play hard," Shashkov said. "I think it's fair enough for Division B that only two top teams [from each group] advance to the Quarter-Finals."
The forward will be the second Shashkov brother to play on the continental stage as Semen Shashkov played at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2007 and FIBA U20 European Championship 2009.
Just like Semen in the past, Alexander Shashkov is considered a highly regarded prospect in Russian basketball.
Semen Shashkov played at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2007.
"We talk a lot on this issue as well. He is a great inspiration of mine," said the younger brother.
The brothers spent the 2015-16 season together in Slovenia as Semen played for KK Vzajemic Lastovka Domzale and Alexander was with the club's youth team and practiced with the professionals.
"My mother wanted me to be closer to Semen so we decided that I would move to Slovenia to play," Alexander said explaining his move from Russia.
"It was a challenge to play men's basketball at every practice, but I learned a lot. I think I matured and got stronger."
That improvement has already bore fruit as Shashkov helped Russia win a preparation tournament in Italy against Division A sides Croatia, Italy and Poland.
"It was difficult to play against these strong teams. I think we discovered all of the weaknesses in our team in Italy, especially on defence," Shashkov said. "We worked a lot to improve and will be better in Bulgaria."