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EuroBasket 2017 | Group C Primer

France's Thomas Heurtel, center, drives around Spain's Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol, right, during the basketball World Cup quarter finals match between Spain and France in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. The 2014 Basketball World Cup competition will take place in various cities in Spain from Aug. 30 through to Sept. 14. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza

We’ve bided our time with summer league, the Big3, the Drew League, and an insane NBA offseason. While we wait for the next season to get underway, we’ve been looking for stuff left and right to pass the seconds, minutes and hours. We had “Game of Thrones” for a few weeks, but that just ended. Now we’re left with the despair of getting through the first couple weeks of September.

Luckily for the basketball nerd inside all of us, we have EuroBasket. This year’s EuroBasket is the 40th time this has all come together. 24 different countries, split into four groups, will compete in group play and then single-elimination playoffs to determine a European champion. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces and names. You’ll also see some of those highly mysterious draft-and-stash options, as well as future draft picks. This tournament is more than enough to get us to media day for the NBA and a truncated preseason schedule.

With roughly six weeks until the start of the 2017-18 NBA season, this will take up nearly half that time and get us primed for another campaign. Let’s take a look at the teams from Group C to get you prepped for EuroBasket 2017.

Croatia

Whom should you recognize?

Bojan Bogdanovic, Dario Saric, and Roko Ukic. You Toronto Raptor and Milwaukee Buck die-hards will be ecstatic to see Roko Ukic on a basketball court. The 33-year-old point guard last played in the NBA in the 2009-10 season, but he’s been a mainstay for the Croatian team for some time. Newly-minted Indiana Pacer shooter Bojan Bogdanovic will help spread the floor and take a lot of the scoring lead for Croatia. He’s even deadlier from the shorter FIBA 3-point line and does a great job of attacking off the dribble in FIBA play. Then there is the wonderment for the Process Truthers out there: Dario Saric. Croatia seems to unleash Saric in international play in a way we’ll soon get to see at the NBA level. He becomes a playmaking 4 who finds moments all over the floor in which to make an impact.

Whom should you learn about?

Dragan Bender. Technically, we should know Bender at this point. He’ll enter his second season with the Phoenix Suns, so he’s already a known NBA player, but what do we really know about him as a player?

Phoenix Suns forward Dragan Bender (35) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, in Denver. The Nuggets won 120-104. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

He’s an athletic big man who might be able to stretch the floor. Don’t expect him to dominate EuroBasket right away, but he’ll have plenty of opportunities to make an impact. The key for Bender in this tournament is how aggressive he is with the ball. If Bender can be fearless in attacking and protecting the rim, you should see signs of evolution in such a young big man.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

Croatia will definitely advance past group play. This is the second-best team in the group (after Spain). The question is whether or not the Croats can pull off the upset against Spain at any point, should they meet. They’ve had a lot of success in the past and have established a solid standard of play throughout international competitions. Getting to the final four of the tournament should be the baseline for success — matchup pending in the earlier stages. From there, everything is gravy.

Czech Republic

Whom should you recognize?

Tomas Satoransky and Jiri Welsch. We once saw Welsch in the NBA. Over a decade ago, he split a few seasons among Golden State, Boston, Milwaukee, and Cleveland. Since 2012, he’s been playing for Nymburk in the Czech League. At 37 years old, Welsch is the wily veteran guiding the younger members of this team. He can still being a scoring factor but he’s mostly there for leadership. He’s there to mentor current Washington Wizards guard Tomas Satoransky. At 25 years old, Satoransky is experienced. He has played professionally for a long time, despite being new to the NBA. Satoransky should act as the main playmaker for the Czechs.

Whom should you learn about?

Tomas Kyzlink? Martin Peterka? We’ll long for the days of wondering when the potential of Jan Vesely will be tapped for this Czech team. He won’t participate in EuroBasket this time around, but the Czechs do have a few young guys worth tracking. Kyzlink is a 24-year-old shooting guard and Peterka is a 22-year-old big man. Kyzlink will play in the Italian League this season while Peterka spends time with Nymburk in the Czech League. The familiarity of playing next to Welsch could help Peterka feel comfortable on the bigger stage.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

Satoransky makes them a little dangerous, but the Czechs will need a throwback game or three from Welsch to make real noise. This group is pretty bad, so advancing past group play should be easy enough for the Czechs. Anything beyond that will require matchup help in the single-elimination portion.

Spain

Whom should you recognize?

The real question is which players don’t you recognize? Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Juan Carlos Navarro, Sergio Rodriguez, the two Hernangomezes, and Alex Abrines make up the core of this Spanish team. Fernando San Emeterio is a highly accomplished international player as well. Spain is loaded with top talent and it’s the reason why the Spaniards’ combinations make them the next best thing outside of Team USA in these competitions. They didn’t even bring Nikola Mirotic or Serge Ibaka or Jose Calderon with them this time. They’re just loaded all the time.

Whom should you learn about?

Pierre Oriola. The 24-year-old big man will play for Barcelona this season in the Spanish League. You have to be really good in order to make that class of team in the second-best league in the world. Oriola was a solid contributor to Valencia last season in limited minutes. He can score around the hoop and has a decent enough jump shot extended to 3-point range. He doesn’t take a ton of them but he can hit them. If the Gasols get shut down for any reason or they run into foul trouble, Oriola will be able to step in and play well off the veteran guards.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

The Spaniards are the prohibitive favorites to win this whole thing. Look at this team. Remember how good it looked against everybody that isn’t the USA Team? Well, USA still isn’t a part of Europe, so don’t expect the Americans to find their way into the tournament portion of EuroBasket. If Spain doesn’t win, it’s because it screwed up.

Montenegro

Whom should you recognize?

Nikola Vucevic. We used to pine for Nikola Pekovic throwing elbows and bulldozing his way around the basket. His Achilles tendon won’t let him play anymore, but Nikola Vucevic becomes the team’s version of Luis Scola. Okay, perhaps that’s a little dramatic and overstated.

Montenegro's Nikola Vucevic dunks a ball during their EuroBasket European Basketball Championship Group B match against Lithuania, in Podmezakla Arena , in Jesenice, Slovenia, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

Scola is one of the greatest international scorers we’ve ever seen, but Montenegro will lean heavily on Vucevic to set the tone offensively. Some may also remember Boston College scorer Tyrese Rice. He had a couple of flirtations with summer league but has carved out a solid international career. He’ll be the primary playmaker for Montenegro and we could see some big scoring performances from him.

Whom should you learn about?

Bojan Dubljevic and Dino Radoncic. Dubljevic was taken in the second round of the 2013 draft by Minnesota and his draft rights still belong to the team. Mostly, he’s been a very good player for Valencia in the Spanish League since 2012. Dubljevic is a big man who can stretch the floor and has been a double-digit scorer for a half-decade. Montenegro will play him next to Vucevic and force opposing big men to get comfortable defending out to the 3-point line.

Radoncic is an 18-year old wing just now getting into the upper echelon of the Spanish League. I’m not sure how much you can expect from him in this setting but he’ll be a player to watch.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

Getting out of this group should be easy enough for Montenegro. However, the team just doesn’t quite have the guard depth to compete with the bigger teams in this competition. If Dubljevic or Vucevic get into foul trouble, Montenegro will be in trouble. However, the team should hold its own against most foes.

Romania

Whom should you recognize?

How big of a Romanian basketball nerd are you? Not very? This roster will make it tough to recognize basketball icons from Romania.

Whom should you learn about?

I guess everybody? Romania is not known for its basketball. Andrei Mandache, Emanuel Cate, and Vlad Moldoveanu will be the biggest players for Romania. At the same time, I’m not sure that Romania is even ranked by FIBA. Perhaps the nation has been holding back and will be the Cinderella of this entire EuroBasket experience.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

Unless this turns into a gymnastics competition in the middle of group play, I’ll go out on a limb and say the Romanians will struggle to advance to the tournament portion of EuroBasket 2017.

Hungary

Whom should you recognize?

Adam Hanga. He was picked by the San Antonio Spurs at the end of the 2011 draft, so if he goes off and runs this tournament, don’t be surprised. The Spurs tend to find these gems. Since then, Hanga has mostly played for Baskonia (which sounds like an incredible Outkast basketball album) in the Spanish League. Hanga shows out as one of the better European defensive players, but his lack of outside shooting has kept him from being more of an offensive weapon. He’s a very good playmaker on the wing, but will likely be asked to score a lot for Hungary in EuroBasket.

Whom should you learn about?

Rosco Allen. He is more than just an awesome name you’d probably assign to a MyPlayer in NBA 2K. Rosco Allen played ball at Stanford from 2012 to 2016, and went undrafted last summer. He then signed to play for Obradoiro in the Spanish League, where he scored 10.7 points in 24.2 minutes per game. Hungary — as with Hanga — will need Allen to hit 3-pointers in this setting and that’s not typically his shot.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

I’m not going to make a Snickers commercial pun here. I’m not going to make a Snickers commercial pun here. Promise that I won’t make a Snickers commercial pun here. Hungary? Why wai … aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

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