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EuroBasket 2017 Preview: Serbia headlines Group D, but young talent from Latvia, Turkey, and Belgium make things interesting

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Serbia’s the favorite to win, but most teams feel good about advancing for some reason.

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Baylor senior Manu Lecomte is one of Belgium’s rising talents as they look to make their second straight Round of 16 appearance.
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We previewed Group A, Group B, and Group C where Tomas Satoransky and the Czech Republic will play starting on Friday. This is Group D, the last group in EuroBasket, so let’s see what these guys are all about.

Where’s Group D Playing?

Group D teams will play in Istanbul, Turkey. The group’s game schedule is here. The first games start on Friday, September 1.

The knockout games are in Turkey as well, so that also gives these teams a little rest advantage if they make the Round of 16. Now, let’s get to the teams, shall we?

Belgium

Belgian Lions head coach Eddy Casteels said to De Morgen that “We are damn jealous of the women” (link in Dutch) who won the bronze medal in EuroBasket Women last June. That said, it’s unrealistic to see the Belgian men win third place in EuroBasket.

For starters, they don’t have top class players like Emma Meesseman and Ann Wauters on speed dial. But the Lions’ veteran leader, point guard Sam Van Rossom also told FIBA that chemistry will be key, since Belgian men’s basketball has become a relevant team on the European stage and made four straight EuroBaskets.

The Belgian that Americans should follow is Baylor senior point guard Emmanuel “Manu” Lecomte, who hails from Elsene (Ixelles), Brussels. He’s played many minutes and showed his three point efficiency in full display when Belgium beat Spain on August 9 in a friendly. I don’t think Lecomte’s gonna be drafted next year, but he’s at least worth a look in Summer League.

Though Lecomte will pull off a few Marjorie Carpreaux-like crossovers and Kim Mestdagh-like shots for the highlight reels, it’s still gonna be tough for Belgium. A Top 16 finish isn’t impossible, but on paper, they’re still on the outside looking in with this group.

Great Britain

You may be wondering why Great Britain isn’t called Team United Kingdom. That’s because players from Northern Ireland generally choose to play for Ireland. That said, Northern Irish players are allowed to play for Great Britain too. It’s complicated.

Anyway, I was hoping to see long-time NBA veteran Ben Gordon on the British squad, but he’s unavailable. When every other team not named Belgium has current NBA talent and a strong basketball culture, it’s gonna be bloody tough for these lads to advance to the Round of 16. And Belgium’s better than Great Britain. It’s gonna be a quick “Brexit” for them.

Latvia

Don’t be surprised if Latvia becomes the men’s answer to the “Belgian Cats” of EuroBasket 2017. They have a Meesseman-esque guy in Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis. They also have Spurs forward Davis Bertans who will play alongside Porzingis. And finally, Latvia’s looked good in friendlies.

Unlike the Belgian women’s team who won the bronze medal almost out of nowhere, Latvia is a known entity because they made the quarterfinals in EuroBasket 2015. Still, they just seem to have that luster for folks want to root for.

Russia

Russia was one of EuroBasket 2015’s biggest flops despite being one of the top teams on paper. Timofey Mozgov will be on the roster as their NBA representative and former NBA player Aleksey Shved is probably their most notable playmaker. On paper, this team should make the quarterfinals. But then again, the Russians could disappoint.

Serbia

The Serbs are the defending Olympic silver medalists, so they’re the team to beat in this group. I’m looking forward to seeing Bogdan Bogdanovic, who signed a lucrative deal with the Sacramento Kings this summer. He’ll play alongside Pistons center Boban Marjanovic, who was one of Europe’s top big men this decade before coming to the NBA.

Turkey

Cavaliers rookie Cedi Osman and 76ers rookie Furkan Korkmaz should be fun to watch for the Turks. However, it also hurts that we won’t see Pelicans center Omer Asik or Hawks stretch forward Ersan Ilyasova there as well. The Turks should make it out of the group, but they aren’t firing on as many cylinders as we’d like.

Anything interesting about this group off the court?

Belgium has some notable rap music ties. Lions swingman Jean Salumu’s younger brother is Sylvestre, but he’s better known as Woodie Smalls.

Woodie Smalls is a rising star in the rap scene in Belgium and the Netherlands, though he raps in English with an American accent, not in his native Dutch. His latest song with fellow Belgian rapper K1D “Tokyo Drift” is on NBA 2K18 as well. Expect to listen to him quite a bit this fall and winter at a PS4 or Xbox One near you. Just note, there’s NSFW language:

If you’re wondering if Jean is asked about his brother, he definitely is by Belgians and Dutchmen. But you may be surprised that some American players ask Salumu what Woodie Smalls is all about, according to this interview in De Morgen (link in Dutch).

Who should advance?

Serbia wins the group, but I don’t think they’re going undefeated. Russia, Latvia, and Turkey will take the last three spots to advance.

But to our Meesseman fans reading this, don’t be surprised to see Belgium sneak in the Round of 16 again. The Lions are more than capable of pulling an upset here.