Jumping through hoops yet victory remains out of reach

Path to elite through lower divisions is accomplishable yet difficult
By Ivan Rafalsky

The path is certainly long, with many obstacles, as the Belarusian national basketball squad are well aware. They’ve repeatedly ‘attacked’ final tournaments at World and European championships without success. Happily, this year, changes to regulations in selecting qualifying teams gave more of a chance to underdogs such as Belarus. 

Sadly, defeat by the Czech Republic and Turkey (after being equally matched for most of the game) and our unsurprising loss to favourite Italy have left our squad in the wilderness. A second chance may not appear any time soon, as the next European qualification round is two years ahead; by then, Yegor Meshcheryakov will be 38 while Alexey Lashkevich, Denis Korshuk, Nikolay Alexeev and Georgy Kondrusevich will be 36; even Pavel Ulianko and Alexander Kudryavtsev will be over 30. Younger players are needed to replace them but many questions remain.

The current line-up includes leading roles for young Alexander Pustogvar and Artem Parakhovsky, as well as Alexey Trostinetsky (who hasn’t been on form lately) but there are no players below the age of 30. Nikita Meshcheryakov, Valery Gandlin, Vitaly Lyutych, Alexey Patsevich and other upcoming players are only in reserve at present.

National squad head coach Andrey Krivonos has to shape the new national squad from these players. In this respect, Tsmoki club may be very appropriate. The presentation of the new image, line-up and title of the club has recently taken place in the Belarusian capital. The latter has performed in the EuroChallenge and the VTB United League in previous seasons. Alongside experienced American ‘centre player’ John Edwards (four years in the NBA) the squad features five players from the national team, in addition to youngsters from the club’s second squad who play with the first team every now and then. Potential does exist but realising this may be difficult.

Mr. Krivonos tells us, “We’ve probably demonstrated the best we can at present. We clearly lack something… perhaps experience and patience. We’re in too much of a hurry. This time, we boasted a solid squad but had problems in some positions, which prevented the team from fully revealing its potential. We have almost two years ahead to prepare now, so can compile a training schedule. We’re planning a schedule of training camps to find tomorrow’s basketballers and are searching for substitutes. I can’t yet say more.”
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