08 - 16
August 2014
Vasileios Charalampopoulos (GRE)
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FIBA U17 - Europeans doing double duty

DUBAI (2014 FIBA U17 World Championship) - Don't be shocked if the European teams at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship are a little bit out of sync at the start of the tournament.

Four of the five European sides were not complete until Monday as they had at least one player still playing on Sunday at the U18 European Championship in Konya, Turkey and only thereafter joined their U17 national teams.

The two teams biggest affected by this are Greece and Italy.

Greece's U17 coach Dimitrios Papanikolaou went into his training camp missing five of his players, who were fighting to get the Greek U18 team qualified for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship. And in the end he will only get four of them back as Dionysis Skoulidas broke his left hand and missed most of the U18 European Championship and will miss all of the U17 Worlds.

But the two biggest pieces of Papanikolaou's team have only just joined the team: Vasileios Charalampopoulos, who was named to the All-Tournament Team of the U18 Euros, and Georgios Papagiannis, who was arguably the most dominant big man when he was on the court in Turkey.

In addition to those two stars, Antonios Koniaris played a major role as the starting point guard while averaging 6.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals. And Vasileios Mouratos chipped in 5.2 points, 2.2 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 22 minutes as the youngest player at the U18 Euros.

Papanikolaou now needs to work his high level quartet into a team that could challenge for a podium finish, starting their campaign in Group A with Angola, Philippines and the United States.

Italy's U17 team, meanwhile, not only had three players in action at the U18 European Championship - Curtis Nwohuocha, Riccardo Cattapan and Leonardo Tote - but also their head coach as Andrea Capobianco guided the Italian U18s to sixth place and a spot at the 2015 FIBA U19 Worlds. Capobianco's U17 assistant Giacomo Baioni, in the meantime, was leading the preparations for Dubai.

Nwohuocha was a solid contributor on the U18 team with 2.2 points as well as 4.3 rebounds, including 2.7 rebounds off the offensive glass, as well as 0.8 blocks. Cattapan has great size at 2.10m but didn't play a vey big role - though it was a bit more than Tote.

Don't be surprised if Italy start slow into the tournament, which they start in Group C with Puerto Rico, Spain and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Serbia have enough talent to be considered a podium contender and a major key to that will be point guard Stefan Peno, who showed flashes of his brilliance at the U18 Euros. Vanja Marinkovic was also a member of the Serbian team that finished second at the U18 European Championship.

In Dubai, Serbia are in Group D with Argentina, China and Egypt.

Spain's only 1997-born player at the U18 Euros was center Jaume Sorolla, who played a minor role as Yankuba Sima's back-up averaging 3.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 11.7 minutes per game. Spain take on Italy, Puerto Rico and UAE.

France, who play Australia, Canada and Japan in Group B, is the only of the five European teams which didn't have any 1997-born players at the U18 European Championship.

The message to remember is don't be surprised or necessarily worried if the powers of Europe like Greece, Serbia and Italy start off a bit slowly. They will likely be there in the podium mix down the stretch.