16 - 24
July 2016
9 Yankuba SIMA (Spain)
to read

New-look U20 Spain remains a formidable force

MADRID (FIBA U20 European Championship 2016) - Spain will have to field this July in Helsinki a roster that bears little resemblance to the one which won the silver medal at last year's FIBA U20 European Championship in Italy, as only three 1997-born players were part of that excellent 2015 team.

Nonetheless, as expected from the nation that has stepped on the podium a record 11 occasions in 14 editions of the U20 tournament, it became apparent on Tuesday when head coach Juan Orenga announced his 15-strong preliminary squad that Spain will make a strong bid to enter the medal race in Helsinki.

Spain 15-player preliminary squad for FIBA U20 European Championship 2016
Francisco Alonso Oscar Amo Jonathan Barreiro Marc Bauza
Daniel De la Rua Marc Garcia Sergi Garcia Guilliem Jou
Xavi Oroz Marc Marti Tomeu Rigo Yankuba Sima
Jaume Sorolla Ramon Vila Santiago Yusta  

Coach Orenga, who used to be the U20 Spain boss prior to his two-year spell at the helm of the senior national team and had led La Roja to gold at the FIBA U20 European Championship of 2011, has included in the preliminary list all three of the 1997-born players who competed in the tournament in Italy last summer, immediately after taking part at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Greece.

Winger Marc Garcia, who plays for FC Barcelona's youth team, was a key part of Spain's run to the final in Lignano Sabbiadoro, as he averaged 10.6 points per game as the team's second-leading scorer (behind Juancho Hernangomez). Point guard Francisco Alonso had played in all 10 games in that tournament albeit coming off the bench and averaged 3.3 points and 1.3 rebounds. Meanwhile big man Yankuba Sima struggled with an injury but still averaged 2.3 points and 3.1 boards in seven games.

While this trio of returnees is expected to shoulder a great part of the load, one of the seven 1997-born players on the preliminary squad could very well emerge as Spain's natural leader on the court when La Roja steps out in Helsinki. Santiago (Santi) Yusta averaged 9.6 points and 3 rebounds per game in last year's FIBA U18 European Championship and then went to have a sensational season at senior level in arguably the toughest professional league in Europe. The 2.01m versatile winger moved to Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro from Real Madrid's youth team and averaged 7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in his debut season in the Liga Endesa, to be included in the ACB youth All-Star Team.

Spain's training camp will get under way on 24 June and they will play host to a four-nation warm-up tournament from 1st to 4th July, where they will go up against Belgium, Czech Republic and Hungary. Orenga's team will then travel to Italy on 8 July to play a further two or three friendlies. Spain were drawn in Group B of FIBA U20 European Championship 2016, together with France, Israel and hosts Finland.