Thursday, August 20, 2009
EuroBasket 2009: Rudy, Claver best Freeland
That handsome fellow there is Mieszko (pronounced Mee-e-shko) the bison, named after a 10th century Polish prince. He's the official mascot for EuroBasket 2009 (also known as the European championships) being held in Poland this September. According to these guys, the bison is "the biggest wild animal to be found in Poland's forests... The animal is known for its calm attitude, while its posture and small horns are associated with strength and dignity." Basically, a perfect mascot for a basketball tournament. The NBA should really consider adopting a mascot for the NBA playoffs, though some might argue LeBron and Kobe already fill that role.
But enough about mascots. With EuroBasket '09 starting up a little over two weeks from now, teams on the other side of the Atlantic are either working to qualify for the tourney or getting in a few friendlies before the start of the real competition.
Spaniards Rudy Fernandez and Victor Claver along with Brit Joel Freeland fall into the latter category and yesterday their respective teams faced off in Seville, with Team España rolling to a 84-63 victory [PDF]. Not many recognizable names on the British roster, so it's probably an achievement they kept it as close as they did.
Rudy finished with 11 points, two assists and a rebounds in 24 minutes, though Claver and Freeland didn't fare as well. Claver, starting for the Spanish side, went 0-of-4 with three rebounds in 21 minutes. Freeland, also in a starting role, pulled down 11 boards, but finished with just six points on 3-of-9 shooting.
Rudy has blogged a little about the run up to EuroBasket '09, so heck in over at Rudy5.net every now and then. Fernandez also posted some video of him attempting one of his dunk contest dunks during an open practice.
On a related note, Team Spain is sponsored by San Miguel, which according to this commercial is bonito, or something. Claver makes a quick appearance, and Rudy gets a speaking part. Cha-ching!
The Spaniards have to be feeling pretty good about their chances to repeat as EuroBasket champs, even with Pau Gasol out with a busted finger. They did end up in the "Group Of Death" with Great Britain, Serbia and Slovenia all fielding decent teams (the Slovaks got a squad), but it's nothing the Iberians can't handle.
The squad that many think could give Spain a run for their Euros is France, lead by our own Nicolas Batum. Les Bleus haven't actually qualified for yet EuroBasket, but if they can beat either Belgium or Bosnia/Herzegovina in they're next game, they're in. Fingers crossed.