There were not a lot of expectations for Belgium going into the Beko Supercup in Bamberg, Germany. But Eddy Casteels’s team performed strongly despite losing three games. heinnews’s David Hein caught up with the Belgian coach to discuss his team’s showing in Bamberg, the state of his team ahead of the 2011 EuroBasket and Belgium’s chances of advancing past the first round.

heinnews: Coach Steels, Belgium were stronger than many expected at the Supercup, leading Germany by five points with four minutes left and Turkey by four points with three minutes left before losing both games. And then the team lost by only nine points to Supercup winners Greece. What do you take out of this tournament?

Casteels: What can I say? Belgium are going back to the European Championship for the first time in nearly 20 years – since 1993. We are having a look at how we can match up with top teams. Here we played a tournament with three top teams and I just recognized that three times we were very close. We had an amazing performance. I can only congratulate my players to match up at this level.

heinnews: Where do you think the team is with less than 10 days left before EuroBasket?

Casteels: I think we are pretty close to our best, especially defensively with the energy and intensity that we play with. Offensively we got to go to work and learn more how to handle the aggressiveness and defensive strength of these opponents.

heinnews: Belgium are in Group D with Georgia, Slovenia, Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria. Your team beat Georgia twice and Bulgaria once in the qualifying for EuroBasket. What do you think about the group in Lithuania?

Casteels: These teams will have their best rosters now but how we have performed the last two or three years I think we have the right to focus on that third spot. We believe in what we can do. We know our strength is our team play, our togetherness. If we can make that work at the right time in Klaipeda, I think we will be a very tough team to handle.

heinnews: Belgium actually finished first in your qualifying group ahead of Poland and other countries. And Belgian clubs have performed better and better at the European level. Where is Belgian basketball right now?

Casteels: The last few years clubs wise and in the national team we are improving amazingly. The national team has had great success the last three or four years. And at the club we have already a great tradition in Europe. We are always solid competitors with teams like Mons Hainaut, Antwerp or Charleroi whether it’s FIBA EuroChallenge or Eurocup or the Euroleague. I think people love to see us come because as a club we have great organization, we have great gyms, and we want to compete at the best level.

heinnews: What does the Belgian national team have to do to reach the second group stage in Vilnius?

Casteels: We have players on our roster and we have to get them better individually. And offensively we have to improve our team passing a little bit. That’s the only thing we need.

 

 

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