Kasatkin thinks Russia can learn from 2016 U18 disappointment
MOSCOW (FIBA U18 European Championship 2017) - Russia lost in the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 Quarter-Finals on a miracle buzzer-beating three-pointer. But Daniil Kasatkin believes he and this summer's U18 Russian team can learn from last year's strong Russian showing.
Russia surprised some in the U18 European Championship 2016 opener, losing by just five points to France. But the Russians then defeated Serbia by 27 points and eased past Slovenia by 32. Next up was Lithuania in the Quarter-Finals with a spot in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017 going to the winner.
Russian supporters do not want to be reminded about what happened as Arnas Velicka had his prayer answered with the buzzer-beater. Russia ended up losing to Spain to miss out on the U19 global spectacle for a second straight time. "Yes, their loss was heart-breaking, but it was just one play. In general they showed that Russia can compete against the top-class talented teams," Kasatkin said. "They won by (almost) 30 points against Serbia - one of the most talented teams at last year's tournament. I know it's just a one game but it shows what Russia are capable of doing."
Russia have not reached the U18 European Championship Semi-Finals since 2012 - twice losing in the Quarter-Finals. But Kasatkin doesn't need to hear any of that talk with this summer's team taking on Germany, Montenegro and Turkey in Group A.
"For me it doesn't matter. Every year is different, and with the right approach we can easily overcome everyone's expectations," Kasatkin said. "I believe that the best way to play this kind of competition is to think about the next game as a final. We just have to give our best every single game and everything else will take care of itself."
Kasatkin is not a common basketball player in many ways. First of all, he is a point guard that stands 6ft 7in (2.00m)."There are not many tall point guards in the world. So I try to take the best of many great players," the Ivanovo-native said. "I watch a lot of James Harden film because I believe that is how modern point guards have to play. His efficiency is tremendous. He controls the pace of the game and knows when to score and when to involve his teammates. Also I think that versatility is very important in today's game, so I also am trying to learn how to cover multiple positions."
The other uncommon thing about Kasatkin is where he played last season. Kasatkin was four years old when he started the game and moved to the CSKA Moscow sports school when he was six years old. He stayed there until he was 17 when he made the jump to the United States to play at a high school - something unusual for Russian youngsters.
"Competition was the main reason," said Kasatkin, who landed at Mountain Mission High School in Grundy, Virginia. "With the right approach you can reach your goal anywhere, but I decided that I would have the best chance in United States because the level of competition was much higher than where I had played before."
When asked how playing in the United States will help him at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017, Kasatkin said: "I believe I became mentally tougher because I had to deal with a lot of physically-gifted players. It definitely will help me playing here in Europe. I also had almost 24-hour access to the gym and weight room. I worked a lot, so I believe that I improved every aspect of my game."
Now Kasatkin would love to lead Russia back into the U18 European Semi-Finals - after learning from last year's tournament from afar.