Macedonia: The Great Unknown
Bo McCalebb leads Macedonia into the EuroBasket spotlight.
by John Hobbs / @johnswisshobbs
They have virtually booked their ticket to the quarter final round in Kaunas. They have what many people believe to be the best point guard in Europe at this moment in Bo McCalebb and one of the premier European power forwards in Pero Antic. Yet, the central Balkin state of Macedonia is still relatively unknown to the overall basketball audience.
A lay-up in traffic from McCalebb with two seconds left secured a 65-63 success over EuroBasket debutants, Georgia, to all but confirm their spot in the last eight of EuroBasket, already their best placing at a major international basketball event since gaining independence, which was 20 years ago yesterday.
So it was cause for celebration over in the capital, Skopje.
FYR of Macedonia joined the FIBA family in 1993, and currently here in Vilnius, Lithuania there are only four Macedonian journalists for EuroBasket, three for the national newspapers and one television. A very small number of media present despite basketball being the national sport after it became more widely received than the fading soccer side, according to those very members of the press.
This is the Macedonian’s third EuroBasket, having lost all three games in their debut appearance in 1999, exceeded all expectations to reach the second round in Poland two years ago.
They arrived for this year’s EuroBasket through the qualifiers, finishing behind Great Britain in second place.
“This is a very proud moment for all Macedonians,” said head coach Marin Dokuzovski, through a translator. “Originally, we planned for two wins from our group and if we have a chance we’d try for a third win to make the second phase of the championship.”
Coach Dokuzovki admits, though, that the goal was to reach the second round, but with his team so close to Kaunas, the belief is there to go further.
“We’ve played better and better basketball, and we have much chemistry in the team and the overall atmosphere is fantastic. We’re feeding off that.”
The quarter final round in Kaunas begins on September 14.