|30 July 2013|
|Trying to establish a core of players for Ukraine for years to come: Mike Fratello|
Ukraine head coach Mike Fratello had his first taste of a EuroBasket tournament in 2011, in Lithuania, and will steer the country's national team into September's edition of the competition, in Slovenia.
While Ukraine are certainly hoping to improve upon their 2011 result and advance to the Second Round this time around, the former Atlanta Hawks coach also keeps his focus on the big picture, which is to construct the basis for a national team that will compete at its best level in two years' time, when the country will play host to the next EuroBasket tournament.
Last weekend, Ukraine played in their first warm-up games in preparation for EuroBasket 2013 with mixed results, as they lost 74-46 to hosts Slovenia but defeated F.Y.R. of Macedonia 69-60.
All three teams are however at the early stages of training camp and took to the court with a number of key players still missing from their roster.
Fratello could none the less reach some interesting conclusions about his side, which he kindly shared with EuroBasket2013.org reporter Rado Markovic Hribernik.
What were your impressions after the first game against Slovenia?
For us it has been a great learning experience to play against a good team. We have plenty of new faces in the team and we have to make some good decisions about who is going to make the team.
We had a lot of turnovers against Slovenia and allowed them many offensive rebounds.
We have to learn that when we make a mistake, we don't hang our head, because that is already two mistakes, since with that you simply allow the opponent to create a counter-attack and score. This is what we hope to learn through these exhibition [friendly] games.
How well have you adapted to European basketball?
This is my third summer with the Ukrainian national team. The European game is a different style of basketball. They have some outstanding coaches. So I like to say that working in European basketball is a learning experience for me to. It is quite different from the NBA.
You are missing a few key players for different reasons at the beginning of your training camp. Do you expect that you would be a different team with them on board?
The players that we are missing right now, are players who have played in competitions before and I hope they will bring this experience to us. But right now we have to work with the guys that we have. We are looking at building this team with these nice young pieces that need experience and need to play with one another every summer. From the first to the last year we had a lot of changes on the roster. But we hope to keep the nucleus together and add a piece or two here and next summer do the same thing again.
We would like to be like the best teams, like Spain for instance, where the core has been together for six, seven or eight years and they understand each other. We are trying to build the same thing with our own national team.
Do you follow Ukrainian basketball from the USA? Do you still need to scout these players, especially the younger ones?
I don't get a chance to see the whole country during the season and do not have a chance to watch those players. I have to rely on people who recommend them to me and consult with them about who we should bring to training camp. It makes things much easier for me and then I see at the training camp who is capable of what and who is not. That's why this time we had 24 players at the beginning. However, we have already cut three players and have more to go. It would probably be better if I could be around all year, but I am not, so I am trying to do my best during the summer.
Ukraine were drawn in First Round Group A at EuroBasket 2013, together with Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Israel.