Tag: Eurobasket

Bo McCalebb

How New Orleans’ Bo McCalebb became a Macedonian hero

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Macedonia has been the surprise of EuroBasket (the European championship and Olympic qualifying tournament), with a country more known for violent internal strife than hoops finding itself in the semi-finals on Friday. If Macedonia can beat powerhouse Spain they are into the Olympics next summer. Even if they lose they will be in the Olympic last chance qualifying tournament next summer.

And they have a guy from New Orleans to thank for it.

Bo McCalebb has been the key to the Macedonian offense, the leading scorer whose uses quick penetration to break down defenses. He takes over at the end of games. He’s just fun to watch, another underdog on a team of underdogs who just keep on winning (beating traditional power Lithuania in the quarterfinals).

McCalebb was born and raised in the Crescent City, played some college ball at the University of New Orleans and since has been one of the many guys you don’t hear of who make a nice living playing overseas after school.

So how did he end up a Macedonian legend? He explained it to the New York Times.

“I was playing in Serbia last year and I got a call from the Macedonians — they asked me to play for them,” explained McCalebb, who grew up in the Algiers section of New Orleans…. “I didn’t ask any questions about the place,” he said. “I just said, ‘Yes,’ and I got a plane for Skopje the next day.”

Three days later, Bo McCalebb had morphed into Borche McCalebbovski, a newly minted citizen of a country he was previously only vaguely aware of.

“Every team has the right to one naturalized player,” explained Dejan Lekic, the secretary general of Macedonia’s basketball federation. “He came, he liked our country, he liked us and everyone liked him. He is Macedonian in full now.”

Macedonia chose it’s naturalized player well. (McCalebb would want to become naturalized because with a European passport he becomes more marketable to teams on that continent.)

Next season McCalebb — or McCalebbovski if you prefer — will play for Italian club, Montepaschi Siena. But with the buzz he has created at EuroBasket, don’t be shocked if he is at Summer League next year and if an NBA team wants to take a longer look.

Maybe it won’t work out that way. But whatever happens he will always be Borche McCalebbovski, Macedonian hero.

EuroBasket roundup: France, Russia advance to semifinals

Tony Parker of France vies with Michail
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We have our EuroBasket Final Four. And while it wasn’t easy for either side in the Thursday games, the favorites prevailed to set up a fascinating showdown for a 2012 London Olympics berth Friday.

Here are Thursday’s results (including Lithuania earning its way to next summer’s pre-Olympics qualifying tournament).

Friday we will have the both semifinals and both Olympic berths decided (win and you’re in), with the other semifinal between Spain and Macedonia.

France 64, Greece 56: Greece is one of those teams that just makes you grind, that makes the game ugly. France is prone to stretches where their offense goes on hiatus (traditionally that happens in the knockout rounds of international competitions). Those two things came together for three quarters on Thursday and the result was a 43-40 Greek lead heading into the fourth quarter.

But in the fourth France’s superior talent won out, with Tony Parker and the Trail Blazers’ Nicolas Batum combining for 18 points. Throw in guard Nando De Colo and you basically have all of France’s offense for the game (Joakim Noah was 1-of-8 shooting).

Russia 77, Serbia 67: Russia remains the only undefeated team in EuroBasket, and they do it with a true team game. Guys like Andrei Kirilenko — who can do a little bit of everything, inside and out — typify this team and what makes them hard to beat. Kirilenko had 14 points and 11 rebounds in this win.

Russia is coached by American Dave Blatt, a smart tactician, and he is going to make the semifinal against France interesting. He is going to find a way to cut off Tony Parker’s penetration (go under the picks), he will find a way to make it difficult for France to score. How France responds will be part of that. France plays fantastic interior defense, too, it will be interesting to see how Blatt adapts his team’s game plan. But he has a lot of weapons at his disposal.

Lithuania 80, Slovina 77: With that win, Lithuania (probably the third or fourth best team over the course of this tournament) is on to the Olympics qualifying tournament next summer (where the teams that just missed out this summer will battle it out for the three last spots in the London games). Lithuania pulled ahead in the second quarter then held on for the win in the second half.

Spain advances, Lithuania upset in EuroBasket quarterfinals

Bo McCalebb
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All tournament long, teams have seemed to underestimate Macedonia. Now you can add Lithuania to the list after an upset Wednesday — and that means Lithuania has given itself a long road to even get into the London Olympics next summer.

Here are the results from the first two knockout round quarterfinal games at EuroBasket (where the two finalists will get automatic berths in the 2012 Games).

Macedonia 67, Lithuania 65: You don’t know who Bo McCalebb is unless you are an alumni of the University of New Orleans, where he played his college ball. And even then it’s questionable. But the American born guard will never have to buy dinner in Macedonia again. The veteran of the European circuit (he plays in Italy for Montepaschi Siena) had 23 points to lead Macedonia to an upset over one of the teams expected to challenge for the finals here. Remember, Lithuania was the host of this tournament, a lot was expected.

Macedonia has been one of the better defensive teams in this tournament, and they slowed Lithuania’s pick and roll enough, but it is always a question of offense with them. McCalebb provided it as he has done all tournament.

Now Lithuania will have to beat Slovenia Thursday for the right to advance to the pre-Olympic last chance qualifying tournament next summer (where all the teams that just missed this summer get to fight for a second chance spot in the games).

Macedonia is into the semi-finals against Spain. Win that and they get an Olympics berth, lose that and they are in the qualifying tournament.

Spain 86, Slovenia 64: Spain has looked like the best team in this tournament, which really should worry teams since they traditionally start slow in these things and get hot at the right time. They were hot on Wednesday and crushed Slovenia behind 26 from Juan Carlos Navarro.

Spain should beat Macedonia in the next round. Then again, Lithuania and a lot of other teams have thought the same thing. If Spain thinks they can coast, they will be in trouble.

Slovenia plays Lithuania Thursday for the chance to play next summer in the qualifying tournament.

Also up Thursday in other quarterfinal action, France vs. Greece and Russia vs. Serbia.

Quarterfinal knockout round set at EuroBasket

Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol (R) watch as th
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There has been drama — like the Russian win Monday that eliminated Macedonia.

There have been surprises — none bigger that Germany being eliminated in group play and thereby eliminated from the Olympics. Dirk Nowitzki admitted later he was tired and maybe not able to help his team as much as he wanted to.

And now we are down to a final eight at EuroBasket, the Olympic qualifying tournament. This means we are in the knockout stage — one and done. The two finalists will get their passports stamped for England as they will earn berths in the 2012 London Olympics. Finishers two through six are headed to the pre-Olympics last chance qualifying tournament next July.

Here are the four quarterfinal games:

Spain vs. Slovenia: Spain has been the best team in the tournament so far, compiling a 7-1 record behind brothers Marc and Pau Gasol. We all love to watch great perimeter players, but Ricky Rubio has struggled in EuroBasket and it hasn’t mattered because Spain has the best and most skilled front line. Big men win. Spain has depth to go behind them at every position. Anything less than an automatic Olympic bid would be a bitter disappointment for Spain.

Slovenia has not looked good of late and needed to beat Finland on Monday to get into the quarterfinals — they did 67-60, but it was a sloppy, unimpressive win. Slovina’s zone defense can be picked apart and Spain has the players to do it. If you want a silver lining, Slovenia does go in with no pressure against Spain. Just not sure that will be enough.

Macedonia vs. Lithuania: Macedonia has been on of the surprise teams of the tournament and they almost beat Russia on Monday (scroll down to see the video of Russia’s winning shot – that guy did not call bank). Macedonia is led by Bo McCalebb, who was raised and played his ball in the New Orleans area and now makes a nice living overseas.

Lithuania should beat them, but everybody has been surprised by Macedonia this tournament and if Lithuania coasts they will pay. Lithuania has some players you know, such as Darius Songaila, Sarunas Jasikeicius, and recent No. 5 pick of the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas. They move spectacularly well off the ball and are hard to defend. They are rightly favored in this game, but it will not be easy.

France vs. Greece: France came in with questions about their offense but Tony Parker has been the MVP of this tournament, leading the French to a 7-1 record (and the loss came to Spain when Parker and other key players were held out for rest). France has good defense with Joakim Noah in the paint and Nicolas Batum of Portland on the wing, plus they also have Boris Diaw. They expect one of those Olympic berths.

Greece has been solid all tournament but not spectacular — they do not look like the squad that knocked off the Americans the World Championships five years ago, in part because key players are not here. They are good enough not to get blown out of games but seem to lack the ability to finish.

Russia vs. Serbia: Russia has remained undefeated in this tournament (8-0) and Andrei Kirilenko has led the way averaging 13.9 points per game. They haven’t blown people away, but they have played solid all around basketball and in the crunch have found ways to win, like how they beat Macedonia in the final game of group play.

Serbia will be no pushover – this team beat out Dirk Nowitzki’s Germany and World Championship runner up Turkey to advance to this stage. Serbia has one of those classically European offenses with a lot of ball and player movement that when they are crisp is hard to stop. But their pick-and-roll defense has been exposed in this tournament and you can bet Russia will exploit it.

EuroBasket roundup: Spain, France cruising along

Marc Gasol (R) and Pau Gasol of Spain vi
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Friday at EuroBasket — the Olympic qualifying tournament for Europe — meant another round of play in the Group of Death. Spain, France, Germany, Lithuania, Serbia and Turkey are all in the same group and only four of them advance on to the knockout round.

Spain and France are into the quarter finals/knockout round of EuroBasket, and after that it’s a dogfight. Here’s what happened and what it means.

Spain 84, Serbia 59: The Gasol brothers, Marc and Pau, owned this game, combining for 46 points and 25 rebounds. Nobody in EuroBasket can match that front line. When Spain is clicking, they are the best team in the tournament.

And with the win they are on to the quarterfinals (they are 3-1 in group play). They will play France for the right to be the top seed on Sunday, but if Spain plays like they did Friday it doesn’t matter who they face.

As for Serbia (1-3), it’s really simple: Beat Turkey on Sunday and they advance to the knockout round. Lose and they need help.

Germany 73, Turkey 67: Germany got its first win of this round and with it they keep their chances of advancing to the knockout round alive. By the way, Dirk Nowitzki was good but it was Philipp Schwethelm and his 11 fourth quarter points that won this.

It’s simple for Germany (1-3), beat Lithuania on Sunday and they move on to the knockout round. Despite starting this round 0-3. Of course, beating a very good Lithuanian team is no easy task (they are 2-2 this round) but that’s the job.

Turkey (1-3) needs to beat Serbia on Sunday and have Lithuania beat Germany to advance. Not getting into the final eight would be a letdown for a Turkish side that played the USA in the finals of the World Championships last summer.

France 73, Lithuania 67: France remains undefeated (4-0) and they are into the quarterfinals with this win. Tony Parker is the straw that stirs the drink, but they are getting good play from Joakim Noah, Nando De Colo (21 points in this one) and just about everyone else.

As for Lithuania, beat Germany and they are in to the next round for sure. Lose and they likely are in if Turkey beats Serbia.