From Sweden, sportswriter/broadcaster Magnus Dahlborn checks in with BallinEurope today to give us reportage on the recently completed Nordic Championship tournament, which saw the title awarded to undefeated Team Finland.
Due to the tragic events in Norway, a sombre feeling overlay the past weekend when the Nordic Championships between national teams from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland began in Sundsvall. The Norwegian team came and participated well nevertheless, considering that their senior national program in basketball has been non-existent the past few years.
Shooting guard Terrence Oglesby, 23 (Clemson University/CB Tarragona), was the backbone of a team that finished fourth after beating Denmark with surprising ease.
The talk of the town was of course Finland: This team has a good shot at the final place in Eurobasket 2011 in Lithuania. And they did impress, with youth and veterans, on the outside and inside.
The 35-year-old Hanno Möttölä, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks, did not play every game, but proved invaluable in the paint. Gerald Lee Jr. (Old Dominion/Prima Veroli) played well. Lee’s father came to play in Finland in the 1970s and stayed; Gerald’s uncle is Ron Lee, who today lives in Sweden and had a stellar NBA career, leading the league in steals in 1977-78.
But most impressive was the Finnish backcourt of Petteri Koponen (drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2007, but with rights currently held by the Dallas Mavericks) of Virtus Bologna and veteran Teemu Rannikko of Varese.
Hungary and Portugal better look out for the upcoming games in August to qualify for Eurobasket. as coach Henrik Dettmann’s team is in the driver’s seat. The Finns beat the hosting Swedish team, 85-63, the biggest margin of victory in the tournament since 1985.
Hosts Sweden missed a couple of key players, mainly Jonas Jerebko of the Detroit Pistons, who did not play due to his contract status and insurance issues. Also missing were SLUC Nancy point guard Kenny Grant Jr., out with a shoulder injury, and FIBA EuroChallenge Breakthorough Award winner Joakim Kjellbom of the Norrköping Dolphins.
Back on the team was PF Christian Maråker (Pacific University/Hokkaido) and new was SG Erik Rush (Montana State), but Sweden did not make any statement and coach Brad Dean has his hands full in making sure the team qualifies for Eurobasket 2013. Jerebko is certainly the key to future success and Jeffrey Taylor of Vanderbilt may join the team next summer.
Sweden’s U20 team did well in European championships and finished in ninth place. Some of those players will contribute in the future, including Chris Czerapowicz (Davidson College), Andreas Person (Helios Domzale), Viktor Gaddefors (Virtus Bologna), Alex Lindqvist (Solna Vikings) and Charles Barton (Oregon State), but it’s a big step to go up against the big men in Europe. The mental ability will prove the difference in the future for the Swedish team, since there is a lack of winning tradition in basketball, in contrast to country’s success in soccer and hockey.
Iceland lost Jon Stefansson (CB Granada) early in the first game against Sweden due to a shoulder injury and he was greatly missed.
The trio from the hometown club of Sundsvall — Jakob Sigurdasson, Hlynur Baeringsson and newly signed Pavel Ermolinski — all showed their talents from time to time. But Iceland’s lack of size and depth was felt, especially with Stefansson out.
One thing impresses about Iceland: Their hearts. It is a pleasure to watch these athletes giving absolutely everything out on the court. And it was a vital ingredient when Sundsvall Dragons won the Swedish title in May, featuring Sigurdarsson and Baeringsson.
Denmark still looks to come to terms with their greatest talent ever, Christian Drejer, having to retire due to injury at far too young an age a few years ago. He should have been the spine of this team, like Jerebko for Sweden. Now Denmark must wait for the talented (and big) group of boys born in 1993 and 1994.
Although a winner of European group C a year ago, Denmark has a tough future in the very competitive European scene of national teams.
The final standings in the 2011 Nordic Championship were as follows:
The all-star team was comprised of Teemu Rannikko and Petteri Koponen of Finland; Jakob Sigurdarsson and Hlynur Baeringson of Iceland; and Sweden’s Christian Maråker.
The Nordic Championships 2011 belonged to Finland. Congratulations!
Magnus Dahlborn is quite the heavy hitter in the world of Swedish basketball broadcasting; he has been following hoops since the mid-1970s and does play-by-play TV commentary in Sweden on Euroleague and Swedish League (plus the FIBA World Championships and Eurobasket…), working 90 games in 2010-11 and around 500 over the last 10 years.