The men’s national team of Ukraine in basketball 3×3 confidently defeated Switzerland in the final match of the group round of qualifying for the European championship U-18. Our team celebrated the victory with a score of 22:14. After taking the first place in the group, it went directly to the final part of the continental championship. The result of the final qualifying in the group between Germany and Andorra (22:12) was of no importance to us, because Ukraine, after winning 3 matches out of 4, won the qualifying group ahead of schedule.
Does our team have the real chances to win the final tournament of the European Championship-2018 that will be held in Debrecen from 31 August to 2 September? How does basketball develop in Ukraine? How many players from Ukraine perform in the NBA (the best-known men’s professional basketball league in the world)?
Last time one can hear a lot about duels of youth basketball teams, as well as the success of young basketball players. Fruitful team performance of Ukraine in basketball 3×3 during the qualification for the European Cup-2019, a good game of the national team in German Chemnitz at the youth European U-20 (although our team took the 12th place out of 16, they managed to stay in division A. Our team won in 2 out of 6 matches and in some moments demonstrated a good world-class game). Even a female youth team delights this year. Ukrainian U-18 team defeated the Polish one in the final match during the group stage of qualification of the European Championship in basketball 3×3 – 17:7. Ukrainians confidently finished the game with a victory and took the first place in the group. It brought them to the final tournament of the European Championship.
But the results of an “adult” team are not very encouraging. It is difficult to explain why – some haven’t been able to grow completely at the stage of transition from “prospective and young” athletes to professionals; some of them go abroad or go to amateur leagues. Thus, against the background of a successful performance of junior teams, the chances of Ukrainian national team to make it out of the group are much to be desired. Our team only theoretically still has the opportunity to qualify for the 2019 World Cup – the most anticipated event of the coming year. To do this, they must win in a decisive confrontation with the Spaniards. The game will start on September 14 (at 19:00) in the capital’s Sports Palace and will be the only one in 2018, which the men’s national team will have in Kyiv.
And further to reach the final, our team should perform well in the second stage of qualification. Ukraine should play two matches with the teams of Spain, Slovenia and Montenegro. Credits scored at the first stage of the competition, where the Ukrainians played against Turkey, Latvia and Sweden, are preserved. For today, our team has 3 wins and 3 defeats and shares the fourth place with Montenegro. Let me remind you that only three teams from the group will get to the World Cup 2019.
A little bit of history
Success in the international arena can only be reached when there is a result in the domestic championship. And here, in the domestic Super League, there hasтэt been a particular struggle in recent years. Everything – due to the lack of proper funding and constant conflicts inside.
Since 1992, right after the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine holds its own basketball championship. The first champion was the capital’s “Builder”, which since the incipience of the tournament was the strongest Ukrainian team. A peculiar “peak” of the development or at least a relatively stable situation in basketball was in 2000. As a result, starting from 2007, the best clubs of the Super League perform in European tournaments under the auspices of ULEB. However, since 2008, due to the dominance of foreign players in the leading clubs of Ukraine, and, in fact, the actual lack of internal competition, (serious clubs of the tournament were only the Mariupol “Azovmash” and BC “Kyiv”) a deep crisis was born in the national basketball. Strongly quarreled with the Basketball Federation because of a number of reasons, some part of the Ukrainian clubs separated from the Super League, creating their own alternative championship UBL. There were 10 teams, including leaders “Builder” and BC “Odesa”. Although this conflict lasted only a few years, it objectively affected the distrust between the top basketball functionaries of the country. And against the backdrop of economic, the war with Russia and the generally unstable situation in the country in 2014-2015 – the audience, and the Ukrainian authorities, by and large, were not up to basketball. Consequently, by the season of 2017-2018, there were only 8 teams. In May 2018, the basketball club “Cherkasy Monkeys” became the first Ukrainian champion. Before that, the “Builder” became champion 10 times, and “Azovmash” 7 times. Although, in fact, the last championship turned out to be surprisingly spectacular, and the stands at the matches were almost always filled… The number of teams in the Super League and some general games shows that the present “renaissance” of national basketball in Ukraine is still ahead.
In this situation, the key to success can be individuals, who after gaining experience in world championships, in particular in the NBA, must “pull” the national team to a qualitatively new level. And also it is to be an example for the others. This is like, we did it, so you should train more…
Meanwhile, there are a few really cool basketball personalities, who have passports of Ukraine. But they are present. And they’ve already become the leaders and an example for others.
Generation of the youth
In mid-July, Ukrainian defender Svyatoslav Mykhailyuk has officially signed a contract with one of the most award-winning clubs of the National Basketball Association (NBA) – the Los Angeles Lakers. According to media reports, Mykhailyuk signed a three-year contract with a salary of 4,6 million dollars. The agreement includes an automatic renewal option for one year at the club’s discretion.
Mykhailyuk has already played several games for the Lakers in the NBA Summer League, in which he was one of the most effective players of his team. Interestingly, the Lakers are the second club in the history of the NBA in terms of the number of championship titles (16). More wins have only Boston (17).
By the way, the pupil of “Cherkasy monkeys” Mykhailyuk has one of the biggest contracts among Ukrainian sportsmen performing abroad. He is among the top 10 highest paid players with a salary of almost 124 thousand dollars a month.
Except for Mykhailyuk , in mid-June, the Ukrainian defender Issuf Sanon was also selected for the NBA draft. Club Washington chose a Ukrainian basketball player Sanon under the 44th number.
Therefore, the Ukrainian fans that follow the NBA, have someone to root for this season.
…Except for promising young people, good results are shown by Ukrainian veteran athletes, demonstrating the school of national basketball with a “red thread”. At the European Championships, which took place from June 16 to June 24 in Croatia, the Ukrainian team won a confident victory in the most respectable age category 70+. Imagine – our 70-year-old veterans won the championship! For the team of winners 14 players played, one of them – was a coach. That’s it, the Ukrainian basketball school exists, and it already gives its results.
Looking forward to the future, the fact that basketball has attracted more attention in the media recently has also added to the optimism. In addition, some national resources have launched special pages dedicated to this sport. And yet – niche websites and blogs began to appear. They write exclusively about basketball – like ukrbasket.info. Attention in the media, as well as sold out tickets for the match Ukraine – Spain a month and a half ahead of the game, have shown that there is interest in the Ukrainian basketball. And with the support of fans, and, at least, minimal help from the country – national basketball will get a chance for the “renaissance”. And, believe me; it will definitely use this chance.
Text by Vadym Lybchak
Photo from the official website of Ukrainian Basketball Federation