By Cesare Milanti / email@example.com
MANILA, Philippines – The German national team proved that the 2022 Eurobasket bronze medal was not coincident by reaching the 2023 World Cup quarterfinals with a perfect 5-0 score. They recorded four victories even without one of their main players, the young Orlando Magic star Franz Wagner.
The 22-year-old forward suffered an ankle injury in the final quarter of the opening game against Japan but started training before the quarterfinals against Latvia.
“He had no team practice yet. We’re gonna have to see what his situation is tomorrow, and the medical staff will make a decision on Wednesday. We go day by day; we have to see how his ankle feels in the morning, see if he’s able tomorrow or not, and we go from there. It’s a process. He wants to play, but he’s pretty frustrated and disappointed he can’t play,” Germany’s head coach Gordon Herbert said before the clash with the Latvian team.
In the absence of Wagner, other players got an opportunity to shine, and Coach Herbert is especially pleased with Isaac Bonga’s contribution so far.
“I think Isaac Bonga especially stepped up. Injuries bring opportunities, and he really took advantage of the opportunity. Another guy who stepped up his game is Dennis [Schroder]. Franz’s injury is really tough, but he gave opportunities for other players to step up. Hopefully, when Franz comes back, we’ll be even stronger.”
Germany will now face a giant killer, the Latvian team that stunned and eliminated France in the first stage, pushed Spain to the brink of elimination and allowed Canada to knock out the defending champions in the second stage of the tournament.
Latvia has been playing brilliant basketball under Coach Luca Bianchi and advanced to the quarterfinals as a debutant in the competition. All of this happened without their main star, Kristaps Porzingis, and with Dairis Bertans dropping out in the second game of the tournament with an injury.
“We didn’t know who we were going to play last night. They play very well, they play very good European basketball, they’re well-coached and they play together. Latvia played really well in the qualifications. They’ve beaten good teams like France and Spain, so all the credit to them,” Herbert praises the upcoming opponent.
The success of Latvia shows just how exciting and competitive the World Cup has been so far. Coach Herbert acknowledges it but also praises Japan, where his team played the first two stages of the tournament before moving to the Philippines for the final stage.
“There have been really good games with really good teams, especially when you get to the second phase. I’m not sure about it here in the Philippines, but fans in Japan were outstanding and very well organized. I really haven’t followed a lot of teams except for us. In this tournament, you play every second day, you don’t have much time to really see what’s going on for other teams. But this shows how strong basketball is.”
Germany Basketball and growth of the BBL
The conversation then moved on to Germany and the growth of basketball in the country, which national team Coach Herbert has been coaching since 2021. His team had a great last summer, winning the bronze medal at Eurobasket.
“It helped last year when we built the base of our three-year program, and this is year two. We really have the same team from last year except for Mo Wagner and Isaac Bonga, who didn’t participate but who were around the team for most of EuroBasket. We’ve been able to build on what we did last year, which has helped. We had a very short preseason,” a Canadian-Finnish coach noted.
Besides making strides in continental and world championships, Germany also built a foundation for the future with many talented players.
“Franz Wagner and Justus Hollatz stand out, but we also have Oscar da Silva in Barcelona, one of our last cuts. A young kid whose brother plays in college. Leon Kratzer, who had an excellent year. Da Silva and Krazter could be starters on this team in two years when this group kind of goes away.”
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Basketball Bundesliga, the German national championship, has been improving constantly over the years. It has two teams with EuroLeague licenses in Bayern Munich and ALBA Berlin, and last season, Telekom Baskets Bonn won the Basketball Champions League, while Ratiopharm Ulm won a stunning domestic title over three mentioned teams.
“Bayern Munich made the EuroLeague Playoffs for two straight years, ALBA Berlin has been playing really well. I think BBL’s infrastructure is probably number one in Europe, the overall quality is Top 5, I’d say. It’s getting better and better, and I think that helps the national team and vice versa.”
PHOTO CREDIT: 2023 FIBA World Cup