|11 September 2013|
|"We've got a lot of players who can be leaders of the team...some days one player will have a lot of points and another day another player" - Viacheslav Kravtsov |
Ukraine have already taken a big step at EuroBasket 2013, reaching the Second Round for the first time in the country's history. But Viacheslav Kravtsov and his teammates still have higher goals in mind.
"We really wanted to make another step. We want to be in the top eight and actually our next goal is to qualify for World Cup," said the Odessa native.
The top six teams in Slovenia book spots at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. If the Spanish are in the top six, the seventh-placed team also will play at the World Cup next summer.
Kravtsov is playing a big role in Ukraine's success thus far in Slovenia with 7.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in 17.8 minutes for coach Mike Fratello's team in the first round.
"We are happy to have him back because of the injury to his wrist. He has a bone chip from years ago when he broke his wrist. We didn't know if we would have him or not, but he wanted to play and we are happy that he did," said Fratello about the center, who played last season in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons.
Kravtsov is sharing the starting center duties with Kyryl Natyazhko, who is averaging 9.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.
"I have two players who are both starting centers in Slava and Kryo. They have respect for each other, they don't care who starts. One might play a few more minutes one night, the other might play a few more minutes the other night, " said the coach.
Kravtsov said the key to the Ukraine side is their working well with one another.
"We've got a lot of players who can be leaders of the team. That's why we help each other. Some days one player will have a lot of points and another day another player. We have a high-level group of guys here. We just have to stick together and play hard," said Kravtsov.
The big man said the team has learned a lot from their showing two summers ago in Lithuania where they finished fifth and failed to advance in the first round with a 2-3 record - albeit because of points differential in a three-way tie with Georgia and Belgium.
"Last time we learned a lot from the losing. We lost the first two games (against Russia and Slovenia) and then kind of gave up because we thought we almost had no chance to advance. If we knew that everything could come down to points differential, we would have played differently," admitted Kravtsov.
"We didn't pass the group stage last time because of points differential, so we will fight to the end as our opponents did two years ago."