Turkey's 'giants' start EuroBasket campaign
Turkey’s Doğuş Balbay picks up a rebound in a warm-up game against Serbia. Turkey has one of the oldest squads in the EuroBasket. AA photoTurkey starts its 2013 EuroBasket campaign against Finland on Sept. 4 as Spain is favored to win a third straight European basketball championship in the absence of Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Juan Carlos Navarro.
Managed by long-time coach Bogdan Tanjevic, Turkey hopes to get a respectable finish, but it has never finished better than eighth outside its home soil since a fourth-finish in 1949, when the tournament was played between just seven teams. Turkey’s 12 Giant Men had a runner-up finish behind Yugoslavia when it was hosts in 2001.
Captain Hidayet “Hedo” Türkoğlu is making his record eighth consecutive appearance in Slovenia, never having missed out on a EuroBasket tournament since 1999.
The Turkish legend is joined by Doğuş Balbay, Sinan Güler, Kerem Gönlüm, Semih Erden, Serhat Çetin, Oğuz Savaş, Emir Preldzic, Ender Arslan, Ömer Faruk Aşık and Ersan İlyasova. Birkan Batuk was the latest name to be added to the team after veteran guard Ömer Onan was excluded due to injury.
Elsewhere, Spain will be the team to beat in Slovenia.
Their campaign begins against Croatia in Celje.
Two years ago in Lithuania, the Gasol brothers were a huge presence under the basket, while Navarro added 27 points in the 98-85 victory over France in the final.
The tournament features 24 teams for the first time, split into four groups in four Slovenian cities Ljubljana, Jesenice, Koper and Celje. The final two rounds are in the capital of Ljubljana.
In Group A, France plays against Germany, which is without Dirk Nowitzki and has brought in a young, untested side.
Group B in Jesenice features Lithuania, with its two NBA big men, Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas.
Lithuania is rebuilding after being upset by Macedonia in the quarterfinals at home two years ago. The Lithuanians will get to know where they stand when they open against Serbia, another unknown entity coming in with a young team featuring NBA first-round pick Nemanja Nedovic.
Lithuania will also run into Macedonia again. Other teams are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Latvia and Montenegro.
Group D features Greece, a balanced team playing stifling defense. Vassilis Spanoulis led Olympiakos to two consecutive Euroleague titles and hopes to deliver a medal for Greece for the first time since the bronze in 2009.
Most experts see France as Spain’s biggest challenger again. But with Noah, Kevin Seraphin and Ronny Turiaf deciding to sit out, France has lost some NBA muscle. Coach Vincent Collet still has NBA swingman Nicolas Batum and former NBA forward Mickael Gelabale. Playmaker Tony Parker led the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA finals and is as keen as ever to finally lift the European title.
An additional report from AP was used in this story.