BILBAO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019) - There's been a big change on the European basketball landscape the past several years with teams like Finland and Iceland playing at successive EuroBaskets. The Finns even played at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
One of the promising players in this year's squad was guard Tobias Borg. The 23-year-old, in his third season with Bilbao in Spain's Liga Endesa, and all of his Swedish teammates will be keeping an eye on Saturday's Draw in Prague for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Pre-Qualifiers.
Borg spoke to FIBA.com.
FIBA.com: What's it like playing for Sweden's national team?
Borg: It's special. It's always something good to put on the blue and yellow jersey. My dad (Peter Borg) always played for the national team for many years. He played for 13 years, so I'm trying to catch up to him. That's what I'm trying to do.
FIBA.com: Did he put a basketball in your cradle when you were born?
Borg: Yes, more or less. But I had some choices of my own. I played soccer, badminton, track and field but basketball, I started when I was around 5, 6 years old. We grew up in the gym when he was practicing. He put us next to the court to sit there and watch.
FIBA.com: And you're glad that you have followed this path?
Borg: (Smiles) Yes, it got me all the way here (in Spain).
FIBA.com: The competition is good and the crowds are great in Spain.
Borg: Exactly. It was one of my goals since a long time ago, since I started playing at an elite level. Getting to Spain was my goal and now, it's to continue where I am.
FIBA.com: So back to the national team - Finland played at the last three EuroBaskets and also the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and Iceland have just qualified for a second straight EuroBasket. When is Sweden going to join them?
Borg: I think soon. We've got a good generation coming up now, a few young players, between 20, 25 years old and if we can all get together, we can play some good games. They changed the program and the European Championship is every fourth year now, and that was a little bit of a disappointment, but we've got other games to play. When we've got the opportunity, we've got to show we deserve to be at the top level of Europe.
FIBA.com: The really good news, though, is that Sweden will play next summer to try to get into the Qualification Round for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. So you'll get some big games there.
Borg: For sure. It's going to be fun to play those games, probably very competitive. If we get all the players together, I think we can compete with everybody.
FIBA.com: Who are you talking about specifically?
Borg: We've got Ludde Hakanson at Fuenlabrada now. We've got some Swedish guys playing in the Swedish league and doing very well there. Some guys playing in Greece. We've got one NBA guy now, Jonas Jerebko, and then Jeffery Taylor at Real Madrid, Markus Eriksson at Barcelona. So we've got good players.
FIBA.com: So it's really about getting everyone together?
Borg: Yes, it's been kind of a struggle the past couple of years but if we get the chance to get everyone together, I think we can have a very good team.
FIBA.com: Players from other national teams have said there is no reason why Sweden should not be there competing with the best.
Borg: That's kind of how I feel about it, too. We have the material to get there but the results haven't really gone our way.
FIBA.com: There is no doubt about that. You lost your first qualifying game in September at Bosnia and Herzegovina, 74-71, then fell at home to Russia, 85-73. The second time around, you had a team-high 14 points but Sweden lost a 78-76 heartbreaker at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina and then 63-59 at Russia.
Borg: We couldn't finish them off and that's been a problem the last couple of years. But if we start playing well together and maybe have a little bit of luck, too, we're going to get there.