After the Ukraine National Team’s kickoff meeting and dinner in Kiev, we chartered a flight to Klaipėda, which is the third largest city in Lithuania and the site of our training camp. Klaipėda will also be the location of Group D’s opening round competition in the 2011 European Basketball Championships beginning on August 31st.
We’ve encountered many more English-speaking people here than in Kiev, so it’s been easy to navigate our way around. Practices are held at a gymnasium located inside LCC International University’s multipurpose sports hall named Michealsen Centras. Upon arrival in Klaipėda we took a bus to our hotel, unloaded and headed straight to the gym for our first official team practice.
There is no life outside of basketball when you’re in training camp. We’ve had double sessions everyday – the first after breakfast followed by another in the early evening. Not only does our coaching staff work both of the 3-hour practices, we also have to plan them and review the practice videos afterwards in addition to conducting various other meetings. The players and coaches eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together as a team everyday as well. When you add up all the hours there’s just about enough time to get some rest before waking up to do it all over again.
The players have worked extremely hard all week. In addition to skills development, our primary focus has been conditioning in order to make sure they get into the kind of shape required to play and compete at a high level. Initially we were told that we can have 14 members on the squad: 12 who can suit up for each game along with two additional teammates on the bench in street clothes who can be rotated into the active roster as the tournament progresses. However, this week we were informed that we may only be able to keep 12 players total.
We have 17 guys trying out for the 12-14 available spots on the Ukraine National Team. In order to determine who makes the cut, our coaching staff must first learn what each individual player is capable of doing. Then the next step is to experiment with different combinations in order to see which group works best together and is most productive.
As we begin to install our offense and defense I look forward to watching our team steadily improve. With the first week of training camp under our belts it will be good to see some new faces on the court Monday when we play a friendly scrimmage against a touring team in Lithuania.
Thanks to Oleksiy Naumov from the Ukrainian Basketball Federation for sharing some of the photos he snapped during training camp this week.