eb 2013 logo 568Here’s the MVP lowdown on EuroBasket 2013 – and the first round of the competition.

Great Britain’s draw in Group A could have been worse in the first round of EuroBasket 2013 but one insurmountable opponent stands out: France. But with such indifferent form coming in, every foe will be a challenge for Joe Prunty’s side as they bid to accomplish what they failed to do in 2009 and 2011 and reach the second phase.

Much, some feel, will come down to a four-way battle between Belgium, Germany, Ukraine and GB, for the final qualification spot behind the French and Israel. It might not, however, be quite that simple.

Here’s our guide to GB R1.

GROUP A (Ljubljana)

Coach: Eddy Casteels
Star: Axel Hervell
2011 Result: 21st
Form Guide: Belgium might surprise. They have a solid big in Axel Hervelle, smart playmakers in Sam van Rossom and Jonathan Tabu, but they suffered a massive blow at the last minute by losing American-born two-guard Lojeski, who has just joined Olympiakos, to injury. They lack depth but they’ll give every team a run for their money.

Coach: Vincent Collet
Star: Tony Parker
2011 Result: Finalists
Form Guide: Favourites six months ago, the French look strong but the loss of potential stars like Joakim Noah and Ronny Turiaf have thrown even more pressure on Parker to guide them towards a long-elusive title. He’ll need help from the likes of Alex Ajinca and Joffrey Lauvergne, while Boris Diaw and Mickael Pietrus can boss the interior.

Coach: Frank Menz
Star: Robin Benzing
2011 Result: 9th
Form Guide: No Dirk, No Kaman, no hope? This is a much-changed team to the past, a group of unproven international performers hoping to grow together under new coach Frank Menz. Per Gunther, coming off a great season with Ulm, needs to keep improving while Heiko Schaffartzik will be an outside threat. But Benzing, their young explosive power forward, offers most hope for an eventual return to prominence.

Coach: Arik Shivek
Star: Omri Casspi
2011 Result: 13th
Form Guide: Casspi has been superlative in the build-up, fresh from making his mark with the Houston Rockets, and with a veteran team around him, the Israelis could make some noise. He’ll need backing from Lior Eliyahu and defence from Alex Tyus. Their only issue might be if teams separate Casspi from his colleagues and disrupt their offense.

Coach: Mike Fratello
Star: Pooh Jeter
2011 Result: 17th
Form Guide: The Ukrainians missed out on the second round in 2011 by basket average and they look stronger this time despite some injury losses. Jeter, coming off a strong season in China, is an adept naturalised point guard, while Viacheslav Kravtsov can play inside-out and cause major problems in the paint where his team will be the most effective.


Coach: Joe Prunty

Star: Andrew Lawrence

2011 Result: 13th
Form Guide: The build-up’s been a nightmare for GB who were not helped by a ludicrous schedule that saw their confidence sapped by one potent opponent after another. Their small ball approach may have some impact but a lack of scoring is a massive concern. If they give up 75 on any night, they’re doomed. If they can hold teams to 60, they might have a shot.

Lawrence, freshly back from a frustrating injury, will be a key factor in trying to get Britain’s offence up and running. While Kieron Achara needs to remain an energetic fulcrum, even if he continues to come off the bench. All is not doomed, far from it. But it’s a stretch to say you’d forecast a top four finish in this pool unless improvements are found.

GROUP B (Jesenice)
Lithuania, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Latvia
The Balkan-Baltic group brings a nice line in internal rivalries. Lithuania are the class act with Linas Kleiza returning while 2009 finalists Serbia could bounce back. Macedonia were the surprise semi-finalists two years ago and with Bo McCalebb back, they could make another deep run. Expect Montenegro and Bosnia to take steps forward and Latvia to exit quietly.

marc gasol spain 568

Marc Gasol: potential MVP

GROUP C (Celje)
Spain, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Croatia, Poland
The Spanish are going for a third successive title, and are the only nation to have gone unbeaten in the build-up, and the only knock is a lack of front court depth behind Marc Gasol. Slovenia, backed by a rabid home support, will miss Erazem Lorbek and Beno Udrih, putting more heat on Goran Dragic. The Poles and Georgia have good starting fives but lack depth. Croatia lack experience (although watch out for Dario Saric) while the Czechs will be over-powered.

GROUP D (Koper)
Greece, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Finland, Sweden
North versus south in what is the toughest group of the first round. Greece and Turkey have impressed most in the build-up with both capable of getting to the final four. Russia have been chaotic with late coaching changes and player dropouts and they bring an X Factor to the entire tournament. The other three have been overlooked, but they shouldn’t be. Finland could be a surprise, as could Sweden. As for Italy, you just never know.

TV: BT Sport / ESPN,

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