Here’s FIBA.com’s preview of the U19 World Championship for Men in Latvia. No doubt, Taiwan U19 NT is definitely the underdog in the tournament — being the smallest team in the field.
VALMIERA (FIBA U19 World Championship) – While Latvia will do everything to offer teams and travelling fans the most hospitable of welcomes, this will be set aside when they do battle in Group B of the FIBA U19 World Championship, where the tournament hosts will welcome Argentina, Australia and Chinese Taipei.
The Latvians will be cheered on by a partisan crowd in Valmiera, but other teams will go out on the court just as determined to put themselves in the best possible positions for the next round in Riga.
Argentina will be looking to bounce back after a poor performance in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, where they finished outside the medals and qualified to the World Championship via the fourth and last spot allocated to the Americas.
There will be no major squad changes from last year’s team apart from Mateo Bolivar, who will be absent through injury.
The talented trio of Fernando Podesta, Marcos Delia and Carlos Peredes will take most responsibilities once again, but should get much more help from Patricio Garino, who emerged in the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship with an average of 13.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2,9 assists.
It took Australia only three wins to grab a spot in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, as only two teams from Oceania were competing in the qualification round. Australia swept the series against New Zealand 3-0 with a 43 point average margin of victory booking their tickets to Latvia before any other side.
The roster that the Emus – as the U19 men’s team is known – will be taking to Latvia will be similar to the one that won the Albert Schweitzer Tournament last year, which is also known as the unofficial U18 World Championship.
Mitchell Creek, the MVP of the tournament, and Hugh Greenwood should be the team’s top-guns, while Jackson Aldridge and Anthony Drmic both have the talent and skills to take some of the scoring load, when needed.
Chinese Taipei, the clear underdogs of the group, will be making their sec appearance in the Championship’s history, having finished 11th in the third edition of the tournament back in 1987.
Although reaching the World Championship in Latvia after finishing third in the 2010 FIBA Asia U18 Championship was an achievement on its own, the Asian side will be looking to squeeze the most of the opportunity to meet the world’s best, giving players such as the team’s leader Lung-Mao Hu some worldwide exposure.
Hardly anyone expected Latvia to finish with bronze medals in the 2010 FIBA Europe U18 World Championship, but the hosts of this year’s World Championship demonstrated that passion, teamwork and an outstanding player – in this case Davis Bertans – if well-combined, are a path to success.
The performance of Bertans will be the key if Latvia wants to repeat last year’s success, as the lanky forward will be looking to top his 14.8 point and 7.7 rebound averages from the European Championship last year after spending a year at Olimpija Ljubljana.
It would be unfair to dismiss his very good supporting cast, especially Edmunds Dukulis and Janis Timma.
What might worry the coach of the Latvian squad, Ziedonis Jansons, is that the team’s captain Andris Misters will have to miss the World Championship due to an injury.
For the three clear-cut favorites in the group, the story will be about avoiding getting in the best positions for the next round, as the tournament moves to Riga for the second group stage, where teams will continue the fight for podium positions. For Chinese Taipei there’s the opportunity to leap out of obscurity and produce a historic upset.