|13 July 2011|
By Jeff Taylor
|Hungary guard Marton Fodorloves loves spending his summers at lake Balaton, but he wouldn't exactly mind changing this for the Baltic sea this summer |
Hungary's players have a golden opportunity to bring basketball the sort of attention in their homeland that it hasn't enjoyed in a very long time.
If they finish as one of the best two sides in the Additional Qualifying Round (AQR) for EuroBasket 2011, the Hungarians will join the 24-team EuroBasket in Lithuania.
Failure to make it to would allow Hungary point guard Marton Fodor to, in his own words, "chill out at Hungary's big lake, Balaton," but of course he'd rather miss out on that and travel to the Baltics.
Hungary power forward Petar Lorant, 25, and Fodor, 29, are two of the lynchpins in their national side.
Each spoke to Basketball World News about the challenge of getting to Lithuania.
"They'll have the same hunger as us," Lorent said of Portugal and Finland, the teams Hungary will compete against in the AQR.
"It's a big opportunity for the smaller teams like us because the next time, it will probably be more difficult to make it.
"But, I have a lot of confidence in our team. I'm not saying that we are better than them, but we want to beat them. And we have a lot of work to do to be able to do that."
Fodor says there are reasons to be excited about this Hungary side.
"We try to play fast basketball and really strong defense," he said.
"But we'll see how it works.
"We have really fast outside players and some guys that can shoot it outside.
"We've got young and talented players like Adam Hanga, who was just drafted in the NBA, and (Marton) Bader, who has played in European Cups.
"I just think we're stronger than last year when we got good results playing against teams like (FYR of) Macedonia and Britain, teams that are already in the European Championship."
Hungary's first two friendlies are against Iran on July 18 in Szombathely and then on July 20 in Kormend.
Next will be a game against Austria on July 27.
The next two warm-up games will be with the Serbian University team on July 29 (Szombathely) and 30 (Kormend).
Putting Basketball In Limelight
Imagine what making it to Lithuania would mean for basketball in Hungary.
The country is already buzzing about the potential of the 22-year-old Hanga, who was taken 59th overall in the NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs.
"This is a small country and basketball isn't really that famous, so, if we could go and play in the European Championship, it would become a little more famous, a little more popular in Hungary," said Lorent, who spent the past five years in Spain with Ford Burgos.
"For a small country, it's a big thing just to go there.
"I'm not talking about winning the European Championship.
"For us to be there, it's like for Spain to win it."
Basketball has enjoyed a lot of attention in Hungary of late.
"Right now basketball's really important in the media, especially because of Hanga," Fodor said.
"And we do feel some of that pressure."
Every minute of every practice is vital for Hungary because the teams that start the AQR slowly usually get left behind.
"We started to practice one week ago," Lorent said.
"This week, we'll have our whole team because we'll be getting three players who weren't with us.
"I'm very optimistic.
"We'll have some friendly games before then against Iran, Austria."
Fodor is keeping his fingers crossed.
"I think we have a really good chance to go to the European Championship," Fodor said.
"We know these two teams, Portugal and Finland.
"We played them before, last year and two years ago.
"We have a good team now and I hope we can do this."
Stopping The Rot
Fodor has heard it before, that 1999 was the last time Hungary made it to the big party.
That Hungary team came in 14th place.
"It was a long time ago, which is why we want to go," Fodor said.
"I remember those guys in that Hungary team and I have even played against them. Also, my brother (Gergely Fodor) was there.
"It was a really, really long time ago. We (Hungary) want to come back on the map of European basketball.
"It's going to be tough, only two of the three teams can go.
"But I think right now, we have the confidence and we'll do our best.
"We need to win our home games. Away is much harder, so we'll see."
Right now, there is a lot of self-belief in the Hungarian team.
"I'm really optimistic," Lorent said.
"I have a lot of confidence in our team.
"I think in our last couple of times, this is the best national team we have. I'd be really sad if we didn't go.
"I think we can do it and go for the first time in 12 years."
Hungary preliminary squad: Peter Loran, Akos Horvath, David Vojvoda, Krisztian Wittmann, Marton Fodor, Adam Hanga, Andras Molnar, Obadiah Trotter, Zoltan Trepak, Adam Toth, Marton Bader, Gabor Soos, Gergely Toth, Akos Keller and Zsolt Andras Szabo.