Ponkrashov: No Reason To Skip EuroBasket

22 March 2013

EUROBASKET 2013

By Dimitris Kontos

14. Anton Ponkrashov (Russia)
Versatile back-court player Anton Ponkrashov is looking ahead to a busy summer on the other side of the Atlantic and with Russia

Rumours of Anton Ponkrashov's absence from the Russia squad that will compete in next summer's EuroBasket have been greatly exaggerated.

"Why not, I don't see the reason why not to go [to EuroBasket 2013]," the Russian guard told FIBAEurope.com.

"We have one month after the (club) season ends, so it's more than enough to rest and I will probably go.

"But I might be a bit late [to join preparations] because I would like to play in the (NBA) summer league this year, so we'll see how it goes."

The versatile 27-year-old, who can cover seamlessly any of the three positions in the backcourt, has still plenty of action ahead of him defending the interests of CSKA Moscow, before summertime arrives.

The Russian giants clinched a spot in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague play-offs with a 70-66 road win at Unicaja Malaga in Top 16 Group A action on Thursday night.

CSKA has also virtually secured a place in the VTB United league quarter-finals and is marching first in the domestic PBL league.

As is the norm every years, nothing less than titles on all fronts is expected from Ettore Messina's team this season.

Once the club season and his summer league adventure are over and Ponkrashov joins his Russia team-mates, he will find himself under the orders of another southern European coach, Fotis Katsikaris.

The Russian guard told FIBAEurope.com that he has not yet spoken with the newly-appointed boss of the national team.

Ponkrashov however is a player who combined his senior national team debut, at the age of 19, with a gold medal at the triumphant for Russia EuroBasket 2007 and has played since in three more EuroBasket tournaments, the 2010 World Championship and the 2012 Olympics.

He has by now more than enough experience to know that the recently announced retirement of Andrei Kirilenko from international duty changes the landscape for Russia.

Even more so if it is accompanied by the absence of other senior players.

"It changes things for everybody [on the team], not only for me," Ponkrashov said.

10. Victor Khryapa (Russia)
A possible Victor Khryapa absence is threatening Russia ahead of EuroBasket

"Everyone will have to step up because two players or more might not come, so we will have to see how we will do."

The second player at whose possible absence from the EuroBasket he refers to, is his CSKA team-mate Viktor Khryapa, who will turn 31 in August.

"We will see, but I think our fans will go with us," Ponkrashov adds.

"I hope we will have a lot of our fans in Slovenia and even without Andrei [Kirilenko] or Viktor [Khryapa] we'll try to show our level."

Russia were drawn in First Round Group A at the EuroBasket and face in their opening game the best team in the Qualification Round, Italy.

They will then lock horns with Finland, Greece, Turkey and Sweden in their quest to clinch a top-three finish in the group and qualify for the Second Round.

"It's like always at a EuroBasket, it's a tough group," is Ponkrashov's assessment.

"We had difficult groups the last couple of times too, but we showed our level and played well.

"So if we win our games and finish first [in the group] we will make it easier [for ourselves] in the next phase."

It doesn't stop there for Russia.

No matter which player is on the team, the European powerhouse, and Ponkrashov, always have their sights set on the podium in big tournaments.

"Medals, like always!" he reveals is his personal aim in Slovenia.

"I always say one thing, that Russia has to play for the medals and try to win all our games."


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