REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - The FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments are over … let youth ball reign over the world! We know who will be competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games but it's time to start looking into the stars of future Olympics in 2020 and beyond.
The men's youth continental championships have already tipped off - with the 2016 FIBA U18 European Championship Division C in San Marino - but they will start in earnest by the end of the month.
2016 FIBA U18 European Championship Division C 8-15 July
Go ahead and call me a dork. Who cares about U18 Euros Division C? Well, there are a couple of exciting storylines. First of all, Kosovo have reached the Semi-Finals in their first ever U18 men's competition - in their second summer competing internationally.
There is also the Endar Poladkhanli watch. Endar who? Endar Poladkhanli helped Azerbaijan to the U18 Division C final last summer and was named to the FIBA Europe U18 All-Star Game - despite being one year younger than the rest of the competition. In Azerbaijan’s final Group Phase game, Poladkhanli collected 24 points and 20 rebounds. Azerbaijan take on Kosovo in the Semis with reigning champions Andorra facing hosts San Marino in the other Semi-Final.
FIBA Americas U18 Championship 2016 19-23 July
The top four spots from the FIBA Americas U18 Championship 2016 will guarantee spots at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship with United States and Canada most likely to gain two of them. That leaves six teams fighting for two berths - including hosts Chile, who are counting on one of the top generations in ages around point guard Nicolas Aguirre and center Felipe Haase.
Virgin Islands should be tough at FIBA Americas U18 Championship 2016.
Brazil and Argentina will also be tough, but you cannot count out Virgin Islands, who qualified for the FIBA Americas competition from 2015 Centrobasket U17 Championship over Mexico. The Virgin Islands, who have a number of American-born players, are playing at their third FIBA Americas U18 in the last four events.
FIBA U20 European Championship 2016 Division B 15-24 July
Once again going to a lower level competition but this summer’s U20 European Championship Division B is a bit different since it follows the 2015 U20 Division A which trimmed from 20 teams to 16, meaning seven teams went down from Division A.
Hosts Greece will have a strong team loaded with Vasilis Charalampopoulos, who last summer raised the U18 European Championship crown. There are also strong countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Great Britain and Montenegro.
FIBA U20 European Championship 2016 16-24 July
A day later the U20 European Championship tips off in Helsinki - in a warmup tournament for Finland, who will be co-hosting EuroBasket 2017. To show how much this event is up for grabs, you just need to think that over the last seven summers, seven different countries have won the title - Greece in 2009, France in 2010, Spain in 2011, Lithuania in 2012, Italy in 2013, Turkey in 2014 and Serbia in 2015.
2016 FIBA Africa U18 Championship 2016 22-31 July
Egypt have won three of the last four FIBA Africa U18 Championship and will have a major targets on their backs in Rwanda. Mali and Angola will probably be the top two challengers for the trophy - both teams featuring players who have suffered losses to Egypt in previous continental finals. Hosts Rwanda have also invested a lot into this team while Tunisia can never be counted out for a strong run.
2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship 2016 22-31 July
Yep, those are the same dates at the Africa U18s. Oh well. All the games will be live and on demand on YouTube. China come into the FIBA Asia U18 Championship having won the last three titles - all in undefeated fashion. Things might not be as easy this time around in Tehran as Korea - finalists in 2010 and 2012 and third place finishers in 2014 - are out to finally knock off China. And the Koreans have done just that twice in the last eight months - beating China in the Semi-Finals en route to the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship title and knocking off China in the Round of 16 at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship.
Hosts Iran have two titles and two runners-up finishes among their six top-four placings in the last seven U18 continental events. Japan meanwhile will face a tough challenge without their top player Rui Hachimura.
FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 Division B 29 July-August 7
Let’s throw in the FIBA U18 European Championships as well - since they start before the calendar turns to August. Montenegro will definitely be one of the top contenders at the U18 Euros Division B while England, Poland, Czech Republic and Ukraine should also be fighting for the three promotion spots back to Division A.
FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 30 July-August 7
This U18 European Championship promises to be fantastic with loads of high level talents spread across a number of teams in Turkey. Five spots in the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship are up for grabs and there will be plenty of drama.
Germany have never qualified for the U19 Worlds but will enter the U18s as probably the top contender with a roster stacked with talent that won this spring's Albert Schweitzer Tournament. But a number of teams stand in their way. Hosts Turkey have reached the last three finals - winning in 2013 and 2014 - and would love to make it four in a row. France - the FIBA U16 European Championship winners at the 1998 generation - will be loaded as will Serbia and you can never count out countries like Lithuania, Spain and Italy. And Latvia lost to France in the 2014 FIBA U16 European Championship.
Still more to come
So, that is quite a bit to digest for the next four weeks. We can talk about the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 later since it starts in August, and the 2016 FIBA Oceania U18 Championship doesn’t tip off until December.
Enjoy the action.