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Mikhail Kulagin (RUS)
RUS - Kulagin key to Russia's medal chances

MOSCOW (FIBA U19 World Championship) - Dmitry Kulagin was selected to the All-Tournament Team at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship as Russia captured the bronze medal. The Russians may need Mikhail Kulagin to come close to matching his older brother's performance to collect some hardware at the 2013 FIBA u19 World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.

Mikhail Kulagin will enter the tournament to be held from 27 June-7 July after a solid season with the Russian club Triumph Lyubertsy, in which the 18-year-old has averaged 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in eight minutes in eight games in the VTB United League and 2.0 points and 1.8 rebounds in 11 minutes in five Eurocup contests.

"Mikhail's season in Triumph was a success," said Russia U19 coach Aleksandr Chernov.

“Of course there were moments when he wasn't given enough playing time. But there were moments when he was on the court a considerable part of the game. I hope the experience that he obtained in the games against top level athletes will be helpful."

Kulagin's confidence will also be helped by his participation at the 2013 Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso.

The other big leader on Russia's 2011 bronze medal winning team was Sergey Karasev, who would be eligible to play in Prague but will not be with the U19 side as he will play with Russia's senior national team this summer.

In addition to Kulagin, Chernov will also be relying heavily on Stanislav Ilnitskiy and Serdar Annaev, who helped Russia to a fourth-placed finish at the 2012 U18 European Championship.

"All three of those players are great guys who can help our team," said Chernov, who was Russia’s U18 coach last summer.

"Serder is a smart player, a real point guard with the proper thoughts and visions.

"Stanislav is a great person who most probably is a power forward rather than a small forward.

"And the distinctive feature of Mikhail Kulagin is his consistency."

Kulagin led Russia in scoring and rebounding at the 2012 U18 European Championship while Annaev topped the team in assists and steals. Ilnitskiy was second in both scoring and rebounding.

One 1995-born player Chernov believes could be in the mix in Prague for Russia is Alexander Gankevich, who contributed 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench at last summer's U18 European tournament and is advancing well in CSKA Moscow's youth system.

"Alexander is a positive young guy. It's a pleasure to work with him. I'm sure that his work efficiency will allow him to participate in the team," said the coach.

Chernov's Russia squad was drawn into Group D along with China, Ivory Coast and the USA.

"China has a strong team, I've seen them and I know this. They're a challenging team and you cannot relax against them," said the coach.

"Everybody knows about the strength of USA's national team. They always fight for the gold medal, so it's going to be complicated in the game against them."

Chernov said his coaching staff still hasn't obtained much information about the Ivory Coast so he can't say too much about the Africa side.

About his team's expectations in Prague, Chernov said: "Every trainer sets the highest possible aim. I'm not an exception. In order to fulfill this, we will have to work hard."

And a strong performance by Mikhail Kulagin would help too.


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