View Full Version : 2008 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men

04-26-2008, 07:37 AM
Competitive like a FIBA World Championship

Beijing is ready...

... but there are still 3 teams that will have a chance to qualify for the Olympic Basketball tournaments in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men in Athens.

The following nine teams have already booked their tickets for the Olympic Basketball Tournament for Men that will take place in Beijing, China, from 9th to 24th August 2008: Angola, Argentina, Australia, China, Iran, Lithuania, Russia, Spain and USA.

The remaining three men's berths for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will be decided in the 12-team FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament amongst the following teams: Brazil, Cape Verde, Canada, Cameroon, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Korea, Lebanon, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Slovenia.

Some of the biggest stars of the game will compete in Athens like Dirk Nowitzki from Germany, Leandro Barbosa from Brazil, Theo Papaloukas from Greece, Carlos Arroyo from Puerto Rico and Jaka Lakovic from Slovenia. And all of them know that it will be an incredible difficult task to gain one of the remaining three tickets to Beijing.

Lakovic: "For every athlete in every sport, it is the biggest to play in the Olympics and enjoying the Olympic spirit. In the Olympics, there are 12 teams playing for the title. And I think playing in the Olympics would be much easier than playing in the EuroBasket, where you have many good teams. In the Olympics, you have good teams. But maybe six, so you can fight though the rest."

The FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men will be played from 14th to 20th July in order to ensure the highest possible standard and to allow the participating teams to enjoy a longer preparation phase and count with the presence of their best players.

Here are some reactions from players and coaches after the draw:

Marko Popovic (Croatia): "Every game will be very important, because every game could be decisive. We will do everything to make it to the Olympic Games. It's a good thing we can not meet Greece in the quarter-finals, while I also hope that we will avoid Slovenia there."

Rasho Nesterovic (Player Slovenia): "We shouldn't talk about possible opponents in the quarter-finals before we actually get there. All in all, I am confident that we have the will, motivation and quality to reach our aim - qualifying for Beijing."

Rodrigo Mascarenhas (Player Cape Verde): "Germany is the strongest team of the group. They are led by a fabulous player Dirk Nowitzki. It will not be easy for us. I followed the draw with some national team-mates here in Luanda (Angola). We will have the chance to measure our potential against high-class players."

Moncho Monsalve (Coach Brazil Men's team): "For us, it's a tremendous challenge to finish first of our group ahead of Greece, who are hosting the tournament. Greece needs no introduction. But I am happy with our group. I think the real test will be against Group B, with Germany and New Zealand as the likely teams we will meet in the next round if we finish in the top two spots of our group."

Nenad Vucnic (Coach New Zealand): "The tournament is full of very strong teams and others that are not so fancied, but are in the same position we were six or seven years ago ... pushing to make it to top competitions."

04-26-2008, 07:41 AM
FIBA Qualification process to the 2008 Olympic Basketball Tournament

Stage 1: Qualification through FIBA Zone Championships
Only teams whose national federations are members of FIBA and who's National Olympic Committees are affiliated to the International Olympic Committee are entitled to participate in the Olympic Tournaments for Men and Women.

Qualification* *

Host country China
2006 FIBA World Champion Spain
African Champion Angola
Americas Champion & Runner up USA & Argentina
Asian Champion Iran
European Champion & Runner up Russia & Lithuania
Oceanian Champion Australia
FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 3
Total: 12

Stage 2: Qualification through the FIBA Olympic Qualifier Championship

On 9th December 2007, at its meeting in Chicago, the FIBA Central Board decided that the 2008 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men will be played in Athens (Greece), in the 18.000 OAKA Sports Arena, located in Maroussi, from 14th to 20th July 2008.

The following nine teams have already booked their tickets for the Olympic Basketball Tournament for Men that will take place in Beijing, China, from 10th to 24th August 2008: Angola (African Champion), Argentina (Americas runner-up), Australia (Oceanian Champion), China (host), Iran (Asian Champion), Lithuania (European Bronze medallist), Russia (European Champion), Spain (World Champion) and USA (Champion of the Americas).

The remaining three men's berths for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will be decided in this 12-team FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will feature the following participants: Cameroon and Cape Verde (Africa), Puerto Rico, Brazil and Canada (Americas), Lebanon and Korea (Asia), Greece, Germany, Croatia, and Slovenia (Europe) and New Zealand (Oceania).

1. Composition of groups:

Group A: Brazil, Greece and Lebanon

Group B: Cape Verde, Germany and New Zealand

Group C: Canada, Korea and Slovenia

Group D: Cameroon, Croatia and Puerto Rico

2. Preliminary Round:

14th July 2008:

Game A1: Greece vs. Lebanon
Game B1: New Zealand vs. Cape Verde
Game C1: Korea vs. Slovenia
Game D1: Croatia vs. Cameroon

15th July 2008:

Game A2: Lebanon vs. Brazil
Game B2: Cape Verde vs. Germany
Game C2: Slovenia vs. Canada
Game D2: Cameroon vs. Puerto Rico

16th July 2008:

Game A3: Brazil vs. Greece
Game B3: Germany vs. New Zealand
Game C3: Canada vs. Korea
Game D3: Puerto Rico vs. Croatia

The teams placed 1st and 2nd in each group will advance to the Quarter-Finals; the teams placed 3rd in each group will be eliminated and may return home. The games of the Preliminary Round and the Quarter-Finals will be played at 13:00 hours, 15:30 hours, 19:30 hours and 22:00 hours. The exact order of games will be fixed in March.

17th July 2008: Rest Day

3. Quarter-Finals:

18th July 2008:

Game 13: A1 vs. B2
Game 14: B1 vs. A2
Game 15: C1 vs. D2
Game 16: D1 vs. C2

The games of the Quarter-Finals will be played at 13:00 hours, 15:30 hours, 19:30 hours and 22:00 hours.

4. Semi-Finals:

19th July 2008:

Game 17: Winner 13 vs. Winner 15
Game 18: Winner 14 vs. Winner 16

The two winners of the Semi-Finals will qualify for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The two losers will play in the Finals the game for the 3rd place (Game 19 below) for one remaining Olympic spot. The Semi-Final games will be played at 19:00 hours and 21:30 hours.

5. Finals:

20th July 2008:

Game 19 (20:00 hours): Loser 17 vs. Loser 18

The winner will qualify for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

05-01-2008, 05:18 AM
CPV – Cape Verde to have new coach in place for Athens

PRAIA (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) – Cape Verde will have a transformed squad in July when they show up at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens.

The main absence will be that of Cape Verde’s Angolan-born coach Emannuel Trovoada, the man who was in charge last year when the country finished third at the FIBA Africa Championship to claim a spot in this summer’s qualifying event.

Currently at the helm of Angolan outfit Desportivo da Huila, Trovoada is unavailable.

Cape Verde Basketball Federation president Kitana Cabral confirmed to FIBA.com: “Unfortunately, he [Trovoada] will not be able to join us in Athens, due to family issues.

“No, this is not a permanent separation. Emannuel Trovoada will be welcome back whenever his family issues are resolved. We will be waiting for his answer.”

Cape Verde will face Germany and New Zealand in Group B, hoping to win a game in order to progress to the quarter-finals.

Trovoada will not be the only absence.

“Basically, our team is under renovation,” Cabral said. “Fifty per cent of the squad has never played for the country. Most of them are settled in United States, and agreed to play for us.

“Our main players will remain in the squad. Just have a look at our team that competed in the Africa Championship and you will notice that we used an average of seven or eight players per game.

“We want to give more options to the coach.”

“We will unveil a new coach soon. He is a local coach and will be joined by another national coach, who currently works in United States.”

The preparation campaign is supposed to begin on June 9, a month before the competition in Athens. That is not ideal, but Cabral said: “Last year we started our camp a month before the Africa Championship.

“It was tough for us due to the short period. We cannot compare both events, though.

“We reckon that we could start earlier, but we have to understand our players’ commitments with their clubs.”

One of the names linked to Cape Verde is the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Ryan Gomes.

The 6ft 7in forward has Cape Verde roots but with each passing day, his inclusion looks less and less likely.

“There is nothing to say about Ryan Gomes,” Cabral said.

Last year, Cape Verde knocked powerhouse Nigeria and Egypt out of last year’s FIBA Africa Championship.

They will be looking for more scalps in June when they host an international tournament which includes Angola, Cameroon, Mali and Senegal.

Late in June, France host Cape Verde in the Africans preparation campaign.

Cape Verde left a very good impression at the FIBA Africa Championship, yet they have higher goals.

“Our aim is to improve on our international experience, and probably at the 2009 FIBA Africa championship fight to win the competition,” Cabral said.

05-10-2008, 08:27 AM
BRA – Moncho: `I will call Nene but it’s his decision’

MADRID (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Brazil coach Moncho Monsalve has confirmed he will name Denver Nuggets center Nene in his preliminary group for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens.

Nene, a 2.11m center, is coming off a very difficult season in the NBA after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

The 25-year-old underwent surgery earlier this year before returning to the Nuggets and giving them an emotional lift as they edged out Golden State to the eighth and final place in the Western Conference play-offs.

It is unknown, though, if he will be available for the national team with the Brazilians taking on Greece and Lebanon in Group A of the qualifying tournament.

"I will call Nene but it's his decision,” said Moncho, a Spaniard who was appointed coach earlier this year.

“If he comes in good physical form, he is very important to the national team. He told me by email that he is really motivated to play for the national team."

Moncho will make a pre-selection of 15 players.

"I will make a pre-selection in a couple of weeks but everyone knows that Anderson Varejao, Leandrinho, Nene, Tiago Splitter, Marcelinho Huertas, Marcelinho Machado, Guilherme, Alex and Rafael Araujo will be in the group," said Moncho, who met with Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Alex and Tau Ceramica’s Splitter at the Euroleague Final Four over the weekend.

"Paulo Prestes and Duda Machado without a doubt will be in the group."

Prestes plays in the third division in Spain with Axarquia and has averaged 17.5 points and 9.7 rebounds.

He also has played in the Euroleague with Unicaja Malaga, the club that owns his rights.

Duda Machado is the brother of Marcelinho Machado and plays for current league leaders Flamengo.

He has averaged 14.4 points per game.

On Marcquinhos, formerly of the New Orleans Hornets, Moncho said: "He plays in a role where we are lacking players. I will speak to him."

05-17-2008, 09:27 AM
CAN – Home games for Canada after six long years

TORONTO (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Canada will warm up for July’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens with some home games – the first time the national team will play in front of its own fans for six years.

And Canada coach Leo Rautins says he still hasn’t given up hope of 34-year-old Steve Nash, a two-time MVP with the Phoenix Suns, coming back to the team.

Canada will host the 2008 Jack Donohue International Classic (JDIC) from June 30 to July 5 at McMaster University in Hamilton and Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto and take on the national teams of Lebanon and New Zealand – two other sides taking part in the Olympic qualifying event in Greece.

"We have no idea what it's like to play in Canada. None," said Rautins.

"I'd like our guys to actually feel like they're at home, playing at home for Canada, so all the boys can hear the cheering and the screaming out of 'Go Canada,' something we see everywhere we go. We'd like to experience a little bit of that ourselves."

As for Nash, Rautins said: "We really have to be careful in addressing Steve Nash for a lot of reasons.”

“He's put in a lot of great years playing for Canada.

"He's coming off a gruelling NBA season and he's a guy that's battled a lot of different physical issues in his career.

“I think we have to acknowledge what he's done as opposed to keep pushing him to do something else."

Canada finished fifth at the last year’s FIBA Americas Championship in Las Vegas to earn a place in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

In Greece, they will be in Group C with Korea and Slovenia.

05-23-2008, 12:44 PM
BRA – Nene included in Brazil preliminary squad

RIO DE JANEIRO (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Cancer survivor Nene has been included in Brazil’s 14-man preliminary squad for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Nene, the Denver Nuggets center who missed a lot of action this season after having a surgery for testicular cancer, eventually returned to the NBA team and played some games but it is still unclear if he will be available to help Brazil try to reach the Beijing Games.

National team coach Moncho Monsalve, a Spaniard who was handed the national team reins in January, is very optimistic about this summer.

Cleveland big man Anderson Varejao, Phoenix Suns guard Leandro Barbosa, Tau Ceramica center Tiago Splitter and Bilbao point guard Marcelo Huertas are among those in the group.

"With these players, we have an excellent national team from an individual point of view but more importantly from a team point of view,” Monsalve said.

“We have playmakers and forwards with a lot of versatility and strong centers who are talented.

"I am certain we have a chance to clinch one of the three spots for the Olympics in Beijing."

Brazil are in Group A with tournament hosts Greece, and Lebanon.

Veteran shooting guard/small forward Marcelinho Machado is desperate to play in China.

"It's a very important moment for our basketball," Marcelinho said.

"I believe in this team. We have quality, potential and a lot of enthusiasm to clinch a place in the Olympics.

"With good work, we will arrive in Greece in the best conditions to seal our passport to Beijing."

Monsalve will be allowed to take 12 players to Athens.

Brazil preliminary squad: Tiago Splitter, Rafael Araujo, Maybyner Hilario (Nene), Murilo Becker, Anderson Varejao, Pauo Sergio Prestes, Joao Paulo Batista, Guilherme Giovannoni, Marcus Vinicius, Marcelo Machado (Marcelinho), Leandro Barbosa (Leandrinho), Alex Garcia, Marcelo Huertas, Valter Apolinario.

05-23-2008, 12:48 PM
GER – Nowitzki shifts focus to Germany

FRANKFURT/MAIN (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Dirk Nowitzki has again spoken of his burning desire to play at the Beijing Olympics.

Coming off a second straight first-round exit from the NBA play-offs, Nowitzki is anxious to return to the court to help fire Germany to Beijing via the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

At his first press conference back in Germany following his return from the United States, Nowitzki said: “It is our big dream to be at the Olympics, and this goal requires our entire focus.”

In July’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens, Germany are almost certain to claim one of the top two places in a Group B which also includes New Zealand and Cape Verde.

The next task will be enormously difficult because they will face Greece or Brazil in a quarter-final, unless Lebanon springs an upset and finishes among the top two in Group A.

Nowitzki listed his main goals for the assembled media.

"I want to still play six years at the highest level,” he said.

“I want to win, unconditionally, the championship in the NBA. And I want to be with the national team at the Olympics in Beijing.

"It didn’t happen for Sydney and Athens. I unconditionally want to fulfill my dream and reach Beijing."

Nowitzki, who spends every summer working out with Holger Geschwindner, was supposed to link up with his close friend and mentor on Thursday to begin his individual training before joining the national team for their final stage of preparations in Mallorca on June 21.

05-27-2008, 12:54 PM
GER - Bauermann opts for Germany over Bamberg

BAMBERG (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) – Bamberg boss Dirk Bauermann on Monday announced he will give up his club coaching spot to remain in charge of Germany’s national team.

Bauermann and the German Basketball Federation (DBB) have agreed on a new five-year deal with Bamberg granting the 50-year-old an early release from the contract that tied him to the club until 2009.

"There are things to be done for German basketball which are so important that they require 100% dedication - also time-wise,” Bauermann said at a press conference in Bamberg on Monday.

“That's why I made this decision."

Bauermann was forced to make a decision between Bamberg and Germany after both the BBL and DBB announced they would not allow someone to be the coach of a club, and a national team at the same time.

When addressing what the future holds for him with Germany, he said: "After the Olympic Games, we will have the rebuilding of the men's national team, which will surely not be easy and demand time and effort.

“I also want to work intensively on the current structures and try to improve them. Among other things, we want to optimize the training sessions of our national teams."

Bauermann, who took over as Germany's national team coach in 2003 and led them to the silver medal at EuroBasket 2005, said he also wants to invest more time and money in various initiatives to develop the game at the youth level.

"I am really happy that Dirk Bauermann decided for us and that we have this professional and expert over the long term to work on the rebuilding of the senior national team," said DBB President Ingo Weiss.

The announcement comes just three days after Bamberg, who played in the Euroleague this season, bowed out of the BBL play-offs.

Bamberg managing director Wolfgang Heyder thanked Bauermann for his years of service, which included leading Bamberg to the 2005 and 2007 German league titles - the eighth and ninth German crowns in his career - as well as finals appearances in 2003 and 2004 since taking over at Bamberg in 2001.

"Dirk Bauermann asked me to release him from his contract and I complied,” Heyder said.

“Dirk gave as much to Bamberg basketball as few others. Besides leading the club to numerous successes, he also worked on making our program more professional."

Bauermann will now attempt to lead Germany into the 2008 Olympics. His team will take on Cape Verde and New Zealand in Group B of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens in July.

If they finish in the top two, Germany will take on Greece, Brazil or Lebanon in the quarter-finals.

There will be 12 teams at the qualifying event gunning for three spots in Beijing.

05-31-2008, 01:10 PM
SLO – Nesterovic considers Slovenia squad selection

LJUBLJANA (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men) - Slovenia captain Rasho Nesterovic knows there is a delicate balance to maintain in the make-up of the national squad if his country is to build on last summer and qualify for the Beijing Games.

The Slovenians were without several big-name players at EuroBasket 2007 yet at times still looked like one of the best teams in Europe in grabbing a spot at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Some of the players absent last year have expressed the desire to come back into the team.

“The players that played at the EuroBasket in Spain did a very good thing and I think they should get the chance to finish their job,” said Nesterovic, who is coming off a strong season with the Toronto Raptors.

“The core of the national team must stay the same, if you ask me. Maybe we need two, maybe three reinforcements, but not more.”

National team coach Ales Pipan will give an indication as to which players will travel to Athens when he names his squad on Thursday.

Beno Udrih, Bostjan Nachbar, Marko Milic, Primoz Brezec and Sani Becirovic did not take part last summer.

Milic was injured while Brezec and Becirovic were in dire need of a rest.

That opened the door for youngsters like Domen Lorbek and Goran Dragic to not only break into the team but have a major impact.

Brezec has said he does not want to play this year, either, while Milic has retired from the national team.

Slovenia are in Group C with Canada and Korea. If they finish in the top two, Pipan’s men will advance to a quarter-final against Croatia, Puerto Rico or Cameroon.

“I think that the chances of all the teams participating in the Olympic Games’ extra-qualifiers are similar,” Nesterovic said.

“We – Slovenia – must stay firmly on the ground but at the same time, we must be very optimistic.

“We must go step by step, game by game.

“We must not get euphoric if we win a game but we shouldn't be too disappointed if we don't succeed.”

Slovenia are not the biggest country in Europe, but they are certainly becoming one of the best in basketball.

In 2006, they played at the FIBA World Championship in Japan and advanced to the last 16.

“After all we are still only a country with two million inhabitants,” Nesterovic said.

“Too bad that in basketball and sport as a whole, bigger and richer countries are worth more. I hope reasons that have no connections with the basketball court will not be decisive in Athens.”

05-31-2008, 01:14 PM
CPV – Cape Verde to reveal new coach in coming days

PRAIA (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men) - Cape Verde haves chosen their new coach to lead the team at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens but will only reveal who their appointment is in the coming days.

Basketball federation president Kitana Cabral told FIBA.com why he is making the world’s basketball fans sit on the edge of their seats.

“With all the considerations we have to the media here in Cape Verde,” he said, “we prefer not to reveal who it is to the foreign media before we tell the local one first.”

Meanwhile, the public appeal made by the federation for private sponsors for the national team preparations and eventual journey to Athens for the qualifying event has been successful, according to Cabral.

“We already have a significant budget that we got from private sponsors,” he said.

“We will have a final meeting with the Prime Minister this week, and I believe that the government will make a contribution, too.”

With their financial support partially guaranteed, it is almost time to gather the players.

“We definitely start the preparations on June 9,” Cabral said.

A significant blow for the bronze medal winners at last year’s FIBA Africa Championship will be the absence of the coach who led them to the podium, Emanuel Trovoada.

He said family issues will prevent him from being with the national team this summer.

Last week, Trovoada, who currently leads Angolan outfit Desportivo da Huila, travelled to Cape Verde with his new club to participate for an international tournament in Praia, the capital of the country.

Trovoada’s side finished second in the event after an 80-69 defeat against tournament hosts and winners, Seven Stars.

The Federation took advantage of his visit.

“We had a meeting with Emanuel Trovoada, and we will see him again in Lisbon, next week, where his family is,” Cabral said.

“We discussed new plans for next year’s FIBA Africa Championship as we expect to have him with us.”

Twelve teams will battle for three places that are still available for the Beijing Games at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Cape Verde are in Group B with Germany and New Zealand.

05-31-2008, 01:18 PM
GER – Five new faces for Germany Mallorca camp

HAGEN (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men) – Germany coach Dirk Bauermann has named five newcomers in his preliminary roster for the national team's training camp on the Spanish island of Mallorca and the side's first two warm-ups for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Dominik Bahiense de Mello from Deutsche Bank Skyliners, Köln 99ers big man Yassin Idbihi, Tim Ohlbrecht of Brose Baskets Bamberg, ratiopharm Ulm's Konrad Wysocki and Gordon Geib from Bayer Giants Leverkusen were among Bauermann's 19-man roster for the camp (June 21-27), and games against EuroBasket 2009 hosts Poland on June 28 in Halle and June 30 in Berlin.

The 19 players will be competing for the 12 spots on Bauermann's roster for July’s qualifying event in Athens, where Germany will face New Zealand and Cape Verde.

The top three teams in the Greece event will qualify for the Beijing Games in August.

Johannes Herber, the star of Germany’s win over Italy that put them into the quarter-finals of last year’s EuroBasket, tore his ACL this season but has recovered and is named in the group, as well as Sven Schultze, who was forced to miss last year because of an irregular heartbeat that was diagnosed during the training camp just days before the start of the tournament.

Germany's 19-man preliminary roster is: Dominik Bahiense de Mello (Deutsche Bank Skyliners), Mithat Demirel (Brose Baskets Bamberg), Patrick Femerling (ALBA Berlin), Robert Garrett (Brose Baskets Bamberg), Gordon Geib (Bayer Giants Leverkusen), Demond Greene (Brose Baskets Bamberg), Guido Grünheid (Hanzevast Capital Groningen), Steffen Hamann (Brose Baskets Bamberg), Johannes Herber (ALBA Berlin), Yassin Idbihi (Köln 99ers), Jan-Hendrik Jagla (DKV Joventut Badalona), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks), Tim Ohlbrecht (Brose Baskets Bamberg), Ademola Okulaja (Brose Baskets Bamberg), Pascal Roller (Deutsche Bank Skyliners), Sven Schultze (Snaidero Udine), Julian Sensley (most recently with Colorado 14ers), Konrad Wysocki (ratiopharm Ulm) and Philip Zwiener (ALBA Berlin).

05-31-2008, 01:20 PM
SLO – Erazem Lorbek out for Slovenia but Pipan optimistic

LJUBLJANA (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men) - Slovenia will be without their Lottomatica Roma center Erazem Lorbek for this summer at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Greece.

Lorbek, one of the keys to their great run to the quarter-finals at last year’s EuroBasket where they eventually finished seventh to stay alive in the hunt for a place at the Beijing Games, was left off the 14-man preliminary squad announced by national team coach Ales Pipan on Thursday.

“Erazem is tired,” Pipan said. “His season still hasn't finished and he has some back problems.

“Erazem will be without a contract at Roma and he may even leave the club.

“He said he will maybe go to the USA during the summer and play for Indiana in the NBA summer league and perhaps get a contract there.”

Pipan will also be without NBA players Primoz Brezec, Beno Udrih and Bostjan Nachbar again, while Sani Becirovic is back in the fold after taking last summer off to rest his knee.

Lorbek’s absence places more importance on Uros Slokar, who showed signs of being a major contributor last year with his fighting qualities underneath and the basket and his ability to step outside and shoot jump shots.

Pipan, despite the loss of Lorbek, is optimistic.

“The criteria for participating was simple: the players who showed the best displays in the last season and are ready to give everything for Slovenia at this moment are here with us,” he said.

“The spine of the team is the same as in Spain. We will give it our best and hopefully that will be enough.

“The goal is to get among the three best teams and qualify for the Bejing Olympic Games.”

Slovenia are in Group C with Canada and Korea, and should they finish in the top two, Pipan’s team will take on Croatia, Puerto Rico or Cameroon in the quarter-finals.

The sides that reach the final, and the winner of the third-place game, advance to China.

Goran Dragic, the point guard who shone for Slovenia on numerous occasions in Spain, said: “We will do everything to reach the Olympic Games.

“If we play like we did in some games in Spain, we will go to Beijing. Our mission is now to train as hard as possible to be as well prepared as possible.”

Forward Goran Jagodnik, who was in last year’s team and had a prominent role, is in the 14-man group but he is still not fully recovered from a knee injury that he suffered this season while playing for Hemofarm.

“I am on the list, but I am aware that I will not be fully ready when the team preparation starts, but I will try to do my best,” he said.

“Our goal is clear – to reach the Olympic Games. If we have a bit more luck than we had in Spain, it is very possible for us to go there.”

Power forward Matjaz Smodis, center Rasho Nesterovic and guard Jaka Lakovic will be the leaders of the team after their performances last year.

Smodis has just won a Euroleague and Russia Superleague double with CSKA Moscow while Nesterovic, the Slovenia captain, had a strong season with Toronto. Lakovic has been excellent with Barcelona, helping them reach the finals of the ACB play-offs.

Because they are NBA players, some might have thought the team would have been strengthened with Nachbar and Udrih.

“Brezec said he wouldn't play even before I had to decide, while Beno Udrih and Nachbar would like to play, but looking at the circumstances, it was not really possible,” Pipan said.

“They are both free agents and because they can only sign contracts after July 1, they are worried about suffering an injury before then, as that would mean big problems for them.

“Because they are out of contract, we also can't insure them…”

Lorbek’s younger brother, Domen, who played last summer, is also included.

Because Slovenia can only take one naturalized player, either Aleksandar Capin or Emir Preldzic will be cut.

Capin originally hails from Serbia, Preldzic from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Slovenia preliminary squad: Sani Becirovic, Aleksandar Capin, Goran Dragic, Nebojsa Joksimovic, Jaka Klobucar, Jaka Lakovic; Domen Lorbek, Goran Jagodnik, Emir Preldzic; Radoslav Nesterovic, Uros Slokar, Matjaz Smodis, Gasper Vidmar, Miha Zupan.

On stand-by: Sandi Cebular, Samo Udrih, Zeljko Zagorac.

06-07-2008, 07:44 AM
NZL – Jones calls it a day with New Zealand

WELLINGTON (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men) - The New Zealand Tall Blacks were already facing a mountain to climb to reach the Beijing Games and that task became even harder this week when veteran shooting guard Phill Jones announced his international retirement.

Jones, who played at the last Olympics and was a huge part of the Tall Blacks team that reached the semi-finals of the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis, is 34 years old and believes the time is right for him to leave the national team set-up.

“This has been such a huge part of my life, but it is time to settle down and stay at home with the family,” Jones said.

“We’ll be moving up to Auckland soon for the Breakers and that’s a really big move. If I was away, my wife would be making that move by herself … it’s something she’s had to do for such a long time.

“If it was me, I’d be saying it was time I settled down and spent some time with the kids. I think I’m playing reasonably well and can still compete at that level, but as far as motivation goes, family is now definitely first.”

Jones is a gifted scorer who has a sweet, trademark left-handed jump shot that has caused a lot of problems for Tall Blacks opponents.

In Indianapolis, he averaged more than 18 points per game.

“There is now an opportunity for some younger guys to step up and show what they’re capable of,” Jones said.

“Even if they can’t compete at this tournament, they will still get to see what level they need to be at … it’ll be good for them.”

New Zealand are in Group B of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens with Germany and Cape Verde. If they finish in the top two, they will advance to a quarter-final against hosts Greece, South American giants Brazil or FIBA Asia Championship silver medalists Lebanon in the a quarter-final.

Nenad Vucinic, the Tall Blacks coach, said: “It makes me sad, but I totally understand Phill’s reasons and respect his decision. It must have been a tough decision after all those years.”

Vucinic is expected to this week announce his preliminary squad for Athens.

06-07-2008, 07:48 AM
BRA – Anderson Varejao ruled out for Brazil because of injury

RIO DE JANEIRO (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men) - Brazil big man Anderson Varejao is not recovering quickly from the ankle and quadriceps injuries he picked up while playing for Cleveland in the NBA play-offs and will miss this summer’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens.

Varejao, who also missed last year’s FIBA Americas Championship because of his contract dispute with the Cavaliers, has been told by Cleveland doctors not to play in Greece.

“I’m shocked by the news,” he said. “I thought I was better and focused on recovering.

“It’s frustrating because it’s a very important moment for the national team. It’s important for me, too, as I have always been proud of defending my country.”

Anderson said he has already broken the news to his national team coach, Moncho Monsalve.

“I thanked Moncho for having named me and I wished him luck in this challenge. We really need this Olympic berth.”

Brazil are hoping to play at an Olympic Games for the first time in 12 years.

They are in Group A of the 12-team FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens with hosts Greece and Lebanon.

Only three places are up for grabs for Beijing at the event.

There are also injury concerns around Leandro Barbosa while it is still unclear if Nene, the Denver Nuggets center, will play.

He underwent an operation earlier this year for testicular cancer.