This morning marked the beginning of the European U-20 Championships, and also was the first opportunity for Team Germany to play against the highest level of youth basketball in Europe. While many people considered the German team to merely be making up the numbers in their debut in the top division of European basketball, the Germans today proved that they are not simply in Greece for the experience. Despite the terrific performance against Croatia, the Germans could not hold off the perennial European powerhouse, as Croatia overcome a seven point deficit in the 4th quarter, and escaped with a 91-86 overtime win. On the Gonzaga related side, this was not a debut that Elias Harris will want to remember. The 6'8 PF struggled mightily against Croatia, and surely will hope to bounce back with a much stronger performance against Serbia. Here is a quick look at the opening game for Elias:
Elias Harris: 6 points (1/6;1/2) and 7 reboundsEntering the tournament, the belief was that for Germany to have any success, both Elias Harris and Robin Benzing had to play at very high levels. While Benzing delivered with an outstanding performance (33 points and 4 rebounds), Elias struggled throughout the game, as he battled foul trouble and the turnover bug throughout. My initial reaction from following the game is that this was a case of Elias trying to do much and forcing the issue. As we indicated during his club season, Elias was the best player on a fairly marginal team. This leads me to believe that he might have devloped a mindset that he must force the issue in order for his team to have success. Obviously, when he is playing at Gonzaga, or with the German National team, this will not be the case, and that is something that he must understand to be successful when he arrives in Spokane.
With that said, I still have to believe that this performance should not be an indication of what is to come in this tournament. In a warmup game against France last week, Elias was spectacular, as he led Germany with 22 points and four rebounds. I don't know whether it was a case of nerves, or perhaps he was just never able to find a rhythm because of continually being in foul trouble, but it should be reasonable to expect Elias to be much more productive on the offensive end in the next two pool games.
Elias and the rest of the German team return to the court tomorrow afternoon at 11:15 AM, when they will take on Serbia. This will certainly be a big test for Germany, as Serbia has a strong tradition in basketball, but with a strong performance by both Elias and Robin Benzing, it appears that this German team can compete against some of the top teams in Europe.