CAMDEN – The regular season still might be more than a month away, but sooner than that, several Sixers will be competing in contests with high stakes.
Later this week, Dario Saric and Furkan Korkmaz will represent their countries at the 41st FIBA European Basketball Championships, best known as EuroBasket. The event gets underway Thursday, and will be staged across Finland, Israel, Romania, and host nation Turkey over the course of 18 days.
Saric and Korkmaz will both make their debuts Friday, when group play begins. Saric and Croatia, the top seed in Group C, first face Hungary, while Korkmaz and Turkey, seeded fifth in Group D, open against Russia.
For Saric, a longtime member of the Croatian national program and former two-time FIBA European Young Player of the Year award winner, this summer marks his third EuroBasket appearance. He averaged 9.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in 2015, and 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per outing in 2013.
Korkmaz, meanwhile, is bound for his second EuroBasket. The shooting guard assumed a limited role in 2015, accounting for 2.0 points in 6.0 minutes per game. His resume with the Turkish senior national team also includes a stint at one of last year’s Olympic qualifying tournaments.
Depending on how deep their respective clubs go, Saric and Korkmaz could be committed to EuroBasket all the way to September 17th, the date of the championship game. That’s less than two weeks before the start of Sixers’ training camp. Still, Saric and Korkmaz felt compelled to participate.
Back in April, Saric explained why.
“It’s a little bit different culture than how you grow up in Croatia for me. I give for Croatia from when I was a kid until now. That means for me a lot.”
Korkmaz expressed a similar sense of obligation in July, as he and the Sixers were wrapping up at summer league.
“I think it’s going to help me a lot, the whole experience to play,” he said.
Hear ballineurope.com’s Emmet Ryan forecast the EuroBasket 2017 field on The BroadCast:
Throughout the month of August, Saric and Korkmaz each had the chance to get back in the swing of things thanks to a series of “friendly” matches. Rust didn’t seem to be an issue, especially for Saric.
In five tune-ups, Saric emerged as one of Croatia’s unquestioned leaders, guiding his country to wins in its first four outings, and posting 20.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per tilt. He shot nearly 56.5 percent from the field, went 7 for 17 from 3-point territory, and cranked out three double-doubles, including one against Slovenia in Croatia’s final exhibition game.
Korkmaz, who played in the FIBA U-20 European Championships just days after his summer league stint with the Sixers ended, held his own in Turkey’s EuroBasket preparation games. He manufactured about 10.0 points per game off the bench. Two of his most productive performances came versus Israel (19 pts), and Montenegro (17 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast).
At one point, the Sixers expected to have at least three players involved with EuroBasket 2017, but a reported knee injury will keep rising second-year Frenchman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot on the sideline.
Live video streams of all EuroBasket games should be available at http://www.livebasketball.tv, and also through the WatchESPN platform. Schedule information for the group phase games for Croatia, ranked 11th in the world, and Turkey, eighth, can be found below.
• Friday, 9/1 vs. Hungary
• Saturday, 9/2 vs. Romania
• Monday, 9/4 vs. Montenegro
• Tuesday, 9/5 vs. Spain
• Thursday, 9/7 vs. Czech Republic
• Friday, 9/1 vs. Russia
• Saturday, 9/2 vs. Great Britain
• Monday, 9/4 vs. Serbia
• Tuesday, 9/5 vs. Belgium
• Thursday, 9/7 vs. Latvia