16 - 24
July 2016
9 Oleksandr KOBETS (Ukraine)
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Ukraine U20s give fair warning

TREVISO (FIBA U20 European Championship 2016) – The opening tip off the FIBA U20 European Championship is still over a month to go, but the U20 Ukrainian national team made at the weekend a statement of intent that no participant in the Helsinki tournament, from 16 to 24 July, can afford to ignore.

Ukraine's best showing so far at the FIBA U20 European Championship has been an eighth-place finish, a feat they achieved in both the 2008 and 2010 editions of the event. At this weekend's Eurocamp tournament in Treviso however, the Ukrainians made clear that, in the 2016 edition, they aspire to reach higher than ever before.

The main thing was our great ball movement and in the last two games we saw confirmation that we have built a strong team - Oleksandr Kobets

Coach Maksym Mikelson's side clinched two wins in three games at the event which aims to showcase young European talent, including a success over U20 France, which also took part in the tournament albeit coach Jean-Aime Toupane does not yet have all players at his disposal.

On Friday, the Ukraine U20s lost 75-59 the opening game against a select team of European talents up to 22 years of age which included the likes of Croatian center Ante Zizic, Frenchmen Boris Dallo and David Michineau, and Serbian Vanja Marinkovic.

The following day however, the yellow-blues impressed with their depth as they scored 42 points off the bench to hand U20 France a 75-55 defeat. Ukraine opened up a double-digit gap, 26-15, early in the second quarter and led by as many as 22 points as they held France to just 1-of-15 from three-point range.

Shooting guard Oleksandr Kobets paved the way for the winners with a game-high 17 points, 1997-born point guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk added 14, while big man Dmytro Skapintsev registered a double-double effort of 11 points and 11 rebounds. For France, Cyrille Eliezer had 13 points while Elie Okobo finished with 12 points and 4 boards in a losing effort.

1997-born big man Dmytro Skapintsev showed great promise at the weekend

On Sunday, Kobets erupted for 33 points on 8-for-12 three-point shooting and led Ukraine to a 99-91 win over a select team of American U20s. Skapintsev finished with 18 points while Serhii Pavlov chipped in with 16.

"On the eve of the tournament the coaching staff emphasized that our main task was to build a team game, the team chemistry," commented Kobets on Ukraine's displays in Treviso.  We did not come here to showcase our individual skills, but to play team basketball. Of course, if you can, you need to attack, but the main thing was our great ball movement and in the last two games we saw confirmation that we have built a strong team."

Ukraine were drawn in Group C of the U20 FIBA European Championship in Helsinki, together with Latvia, reigning champions Serbia and Slovenia.