x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Tournament presents UAE with a learning curve

Zoran Zupcevic, the UAE national basketball coach, is expecting his sport to get a major boost among Emirati youngsters later this year when the Fiba Under 17 World Championship brings 15 of the best basketball nations to Dubai.

DUBAI // Zoran Zupcevic, the UAE national basketball coach, is expecting his sport to get a major boost among Emirati youngsters later this year when the Fiba Under 17 World Championship brings 15 of the best basketball nations to the country.

The World Championship will be held across three venues in Dubai from August 8 to 16, with the Hamdan Sports Complex hosting the finale. The tournament, Fiba’s first event in the Middle East, will bring 192 stars of the future from traditional powerhouses like the two-time defending champions United States, Argentina, Serbia and the 2012 runners-up Australia.

The UAE managed to avoid all those title favourites in Wednesday night’s draw at the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Palm Jumeirah. Zupcevic was realistic in his assessment of the group, where his team will be taking on Puerto Rico, Italy and Spain.

“Any group for us would have been tough,” said the Bosnian. “So, honestly, it doesn’t really matter. It is a learning curve for us and playing against any team is going to be a great experience for our players, especially since we are going to continue playing all the other teams as they have changed the format for this event. That’s great for us.

“We will get exposure to American basketball with Puerto Rico in the group, and then we have two European teams, which means it’s going to be a great experience for our kids and, in general, I think it is going to be a great momentum for us to start rebuilding basketball and hopefully attract a higher number of kids to the sport.”

The UAE will start their campaign against Italy on August 8, meet Spain on the next day and Puerto Rico on August 11, after a rest day. Depending on their finish in Group C, they will then play a team from Group D.

A win would see them move into the quarter-finals, and if they lose, the hosts will take part in the classification rounds for the positions from ninth to 16th.

“There cannot be a better promotional opportunity than this event,” Zupcevic said. “I would say this is exactly what we needed. I believe when our kids are exposed to an event like this, they could be infected with what I call the virus of basketball. Even if they are infected by the virus of sports in general, I believe the country is going to be happy.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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