Before Eurobasket 2013 began, many experts suggested that Poland could be the dark horse of the tournament. Qualifying for the quarterfinals was seen as feasible, as was finishing the tournament in the top six, which would mean automatic qualification for next year’s FIBA World Cup.
Courtesy of The Polish Basketball Association
The optimism stemmed from a number of factors. First of all, there weren’t any notable absences in the squad. The only Polish player in the NBA, Marcin Gortat, as well as Maciej Lampe, who will play in one of Europe’s best teams (FC Barcelona) next season, were both available to play. And with a handful of solid players such as Thomas Kelati, who plays for Turkish Trabzonspor, as well as a couple of potential NBA prospects (20-year-olds Mateusz Ponitka and Przemysław Karnowski) it looked like the Polish team had the personnel in place to make a splash.
Secondly, the national team has a new coach. Dirk Bauermann, a German who between 2003 and 2011 was in charge of the German national team (winning silver at Eurobasket 2005), seemed just the person the team needed to improve on its poor performances in recent years. Also, many of the teams competing at Eurobasket 2013 came without their biggest stars.
The excitement quickly waned when the Polish team lost its first two games against two teams deemed the weakest in its group. Georgia beat Poland 84-67 and after a heated game, the Czech Republic emerged victorious by one point (69-68), leaving Poland the only team in group C without a win. Mr Gortat and Mr Lampe are having difficulty scoring in the competition, as they are being closely guarded by opposing defenses. Mr Bauermann apparently does not have a plan B to compete with other players in leading roles.
With four out of six teams in the group advancing to the next stage, it is still mathematically possible for Poland to move forward. However, the next teams on Poland’s schedule will surely be tougher to beat, with Croatia, Spain and Slovenia still left in the group.
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