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CZE - Everything clicking once again for men’s national team

PRAGUE (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) – The Czech Republic have had a strong presence on the international basketball map for the past decade thanks to the success of the women’s team.

Winners of the EuroBasket Women in 2005, the Czechs also captured a silver medal on home soil at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women.

Now the men’s team, which has been in the international hoops wilderness since EuroBasket 2007, has a chance to move back into the limelight.

The Czechs survived in a very difficult Qualification Round group that also included Italy, Turkey, Belarus and Portugal and earned a ticket to next year’s EuroBasket in Slovenia.

It means they are among 24 sides that have a chance to clinch a spot in the inaugural FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain in 2014.

A member of the Czech national team, 26-year-old shooting guard Pavel Pumprla, gave this interview to Pavel, the dust has settled on your Qualification Round campaign for the EuroBasket. There were six groups and the Czechs claimed one of the four best third-place spots to earn a trip to Slovenia. What are your thoughts looking back?
Pumprla: Right after we found out about the group, we said that we had to beat Belarus and Portugal and try to win at least once against Italy or Turkey to try to get us to second or third spot (the Czechs beat Turkey 82-64 on 27 August). Finally, it was the third spot and that was good enough to go through. I'm certainly happy with it. We went and spent the summer with the national team and if we hadn't made it to the EuroBasket, it would have been a little bit of a wasted time. This will be your first EuroBasket?
Pumprla: It's my third year in the national team and we were down in Division B. I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully, I'll be healthy enough to be in the team and I hope that as a team, we’ll be at least as good as this summer when we get together next summer, to be competitive. What about Jan Vesely of the Washington Wizards? He missed this summer but could feature next year?
Pumprla: It's tough for him because his last season was shortened with the NBA lockout and he wanted to prepare for the full Washington schedule (for this season) and we understood that. It's good that we made it to the EuroBasket without him. We look forward to him coming next summer and helping us and being even better. What did your qualification for the EuroBasket mean for basketball in the Czech Republic?
Pumprla: It meant a lot because the last couple of years had been really poor for the men's national team. The women were carrying the whole load. It's good that we are getting back on the highest level. I think we belong there. The league is good and Nymburk keep playing in European Cups. I think we have enough good players to participate at every EuroBasket and now it's just a case of us showing that we belong there. The FIBA Basketball World Cup is coming up in 2014. Is that a realistic aim for the Czech team?
Pumprla: It's a little far away. We want to go step by step. I think if we put a good team together and have a good preparation for the EuroBasket and get an okay group, why not get to the Quarter-Finals and from there, it's not very far to get to the fifth spot which I think is necessary to get to the World Championship (World Cup). Last year, we saw you play in the EuroCup and you went to Spain to play some games and now, you play for Blusens Monbus. Has the Liga Endesa lived up to your expectations so far?
Pumprla: The league is great. It's still the best league in Europe and I can be happy to be here and I hope that we can keep winning as much as we can.