CZE - Veteran Barton sees first game key for U19 hosts Czech
BRAUNSCHWEIG (2013 FIBA U19 World Championship) - The opening game of the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship could made or break the tournament for hosts Czech Republic according to long-time Czech star Lubos Barton, who believes the Quarter-Finals would be a good finish.
The Czechs have not hosted many international men’s competitions in the past. The 1981 European Championship took place in Czechoslovakia and thereafter Brno hosted the 2004 U20 European Championship, while Hradec Kralove and Pardubice were the sites of the 2011 U16 European Championship.
Barton, however, thinks that his home nation deserved the right to host this summer's U19 spectacle after taking silver in the 2011 U16 event.
"They've made some good results with the youth ranks. The youth teams have had more success than our men's teams. I think it's a great opportunity to make improvements in the older category of the men's teams," said Barton, who played at the 1999 and 2007 EuroBaskets and helped the Czechs get promoted from Division B in 2011 and then qualified for 2013 EuroBasket last summer.
Barton, a 2006 FIBA EuroCup and 2008 ULEB Cup winner with Joventut and Euroleague Final Four participant with Barcelona in 2009, said the Czechs' chances for success in the 27 June-7 July event will rely heavily on the opening game of Group B against Lithuania.
"They need to pick up some momentum in the group and then go from there. In these youth competitions, that's one of the key things. If the guys can start the tournament well and build up some momentum I think they can beat even better teams than themselves especially playing at home," said Barton, who played 10 years in Italy and Spain before moving to German club New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig during this season.
"But on the other hand, if they start cold and never find their rhythm, they're not going to have the same feeling and the fans won't cheer them on like if they were playing well and won the first game. That first game is always important when the host team is not the strongest team in the tournament."
When asked what he thinks the host nation can do this summer, Barton said: "I think they're pretty solid. If they can get some type of momentum I think they can beat a few teams. I wound not go as far as to say medal play because there will be a couple of really dominant teams. I think if they can make it to the Quarter-Finals it would be a good results."
When asked if he will make it to Prague for the tournament, Barton said it's unlikely since he is expecting the birth of his son in Barcelona, where he lives.
"I'm afraid I will not make it. You never know if the baby comes early. Maybe I can see the last couple days," said Barton.