Editor's Note: Thanks to Hippo Taatila again for his excellent long-distance reporting! This was copied and pasted (with his permission) from an email he sent me!
Newest Dallas Maverick Petteri Koponen and Finnish national team have made it to the Eurobasket 2011 tournament, which will be played in Lithuania Aug 31st - Sep 18th. Finland last made it to Eurobasket in 1995.
Finland currently leads the three-team additional qualifying round with 2-0 record after beating Hungary in an away game 75-73 (37-37) and Portugal at home 68-56 (31-22). Portugal (2-1) clinched Finland's Eurobasket ticket by beating Hungary (0-3) late Thursday night.
Finland is hosting Hungary at home this Sunday and will face Portugal in an away game next Wednesday. If (and when) Finland beats Hungary, Finland would finish 1st in the additional qualifying round even with a 11-point loss at Portugal.Winner of the AQR will enter Eurobasket Group C and face Montenegro (Omar Cook, Nikola Pekovic), Greece (Sofoklis "Baby Shaq" Schortsanitis, Kosta Koufos), Croatia (Damir Markota), Macedonia (Lester "Bo" McCalebb) and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Runner-up of the AQR will enter the Eurobasket Group A aka. "Group of death" with Spain (Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro etc.), Turkey (Hedo Turkoglu, Enes Kanter), Lithuania (Sarunas Jasikevicius, Jonas Valanciunas, Darius Songaila etc.), Poland (Szymon Szewczyk) and Great Britain (Luol Deng).
Petteri Koponen has played six games with Team Finland so far this summer and is averaging 11.5 points, 3.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals a game. Koponen has drained 51.4% of his 2pt field goals and 78.3% of his free throws, but is struggling with his outside shot (26.3%).
Koponen's stats are also a brilliant example of Finland's team concept, since nine players are averaging between 7.5 and 13.9 points a game this summer. Finland has won all of its seven games so far in 2011 - four games in Nordic Championship Tournament, two games in Eurobasket AQR and one game against team Germany (Dirk didn't play).