15/06/2014
Jeff Taylor's Eurovision

And finally, it's Katsikaris

VALENCIA (Jeff Taylor's Eurovision) - We can at last say that Fotis Katsikaris will coach Greece at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The national federation announced this week that the Greek will lead the team in Group B against Puerto Rico, Argentina, Croatia, Senegal and the Philippines.

Italian Andrea Trinchieri, Katsikaris' predecessor, and the Greek federation needed several weeks but finally settled their divorce, thus allowing for the confirmation of Katsikaris.

Greece, who had made a two-year commitment to Trinchieri, decided to call time on their association after Greece came up short of the Quarter-Finals of EuroBasket 2013.

They received a wild card to play at the World Cup.

Trinchieri has since shown why Greece were interested in him in the first place, earning the Eurocup Coach of the Year award after leading Unics Kazan into the Finals of the competition.

Even so, Greece wanted a change.

Having seen Katsikaris work at the helm of AEK, Dynamo St Petersburg, Valencia Basket, Aris and Bilbao, we already know he's an excellent coach and the smart money should go on him taking Greece to a top-four finish in the Group Phase and into the Round of 16.

Greece will be big favorites against the Philippines and Senegal in Group B. They will also have group games against Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico.

So how far can they can go? Greece are No. 5 in the FIBA Ranking Men, a team with a huge tradition.

They can potentially win all of their games in the Group Phase, right?

Well, there are no givens in international basketball.

The status of veteran guard Vassilis Spanoulis is up in the air, with the player mulling over the possibility of resting this summer.

No team is going to be able to make a realistic assessment of their chances until they are well into their preparations, or maybe even later.

And forget the idea that the best known teams with the historical successes always win.

Don't forget Greece's upset at the hands of Nigeria at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament two summers ago in Venezuela, or their surprise loss to Finland last year.

If the Greeks do progress to the Round of 16, they will have a very difficult game against, in all likelihood, Group A teams Spain, France, Brazil or Serbia.

Trinchieri talked about the EuroBasket last month and said: "It's a tournament where one possession changes the story, one call, one loose ball, one injury, it's so compressed, so many games in just a few days that really, you need first of all not to be favorite.

"As underdog, it's always better.”

Katsikaris is going to be under pressure to win no matter which players show up for his team.

Meanwhile, France boss Vincent Collet has kept arguably the two most important players of championship-winning Limoges, Nobel Boungou Colo and Adrien Moerman, in the hunt for spots in Les Bleus' World Cup squad.

Boungou Colo, 26, and Moerman, 25, led Limoges past the Collet-coached Strasbourg in the LNB Finals.

Only he knows if they are serious contenders for spots in the team.

Other than Tony Parker, who has decided to take this summer off from national team duty, Johan Petro was the only player from last year's EuroBasket-winning side team not included in Collet's 17-man list, which he announced on Friday.

Looking to Spain, we've seen Barcelona endure an almighty struggle in the Liga Endesa Semi-Finals against Eurocup winners Valencia.

Barcelona looked to be headed for a Finals showdown with Real Madrid after winning Games 1 and 2 at Valencia, but an injury-ravaged Taronja struck back to win Game 3 and 4 in hostile territory.

Game 5 will be on Sunday night at Valencia.

One Valencia player who is putting in some of the finest performances of his career is Ukraine center Serhiy Lishchuk.

Having endured numerous injuries himself the past two seasons, Lishchuk had 16 points and 12 rebounds in Valencia's 74-70 Game 3 triumph.

Mike Fratello will probably give strong consideration to having the 2.10m pivot in Ukraine's World Cup squad.

Lishchuk and Ukraine, unfortunately, won't be able to compete in front of the home fans at next year's EuroBasket.

The recently-elected FIBA Europe Board voted on Friday to move EuroBasket 2015 to a different country.

The move was anticipated due to civil unrest.

There is a chance the EuroBasket in 2017 will be held in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, FIBA Europe have stated that a new bidding process will be opened to all European federations inviting single or multi-country bids.

FIBA Europe must have the required official documentation and guarantees by 31 July 2014.

A decision on the new EuroBasket 2015 hosts is expected by 30 September at the latest.

This is going to be a hugely important decision with one factor being that the EuroBasket serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Speaking as a neutral, I would like nothing more than to see Ukraine’s national team go out and have a great World Cup.

They were the best story of last year's EuroBasket, showing that with hard work, pride, determination and confidence, anything is possible.

Hardly anyone could have predicted they would finish sixth to qualify for the World Cup.

Jeff Taylor

FIBA

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor, a North Caroline native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate, has been a journalist since 1990. He started covering international basketball after moving to Europe in 1996. Jeff provides insight and opinion every week about players and teams on the old continent that are causing a buzz.

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