Lessons to be learned from weekend basketball losses

Susijengi fell to Lithuania and Russia, but they're building on those scores as they look ahead to EuroBasket qualification next year.

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Susijengi team picture, August 2019 / Credit: Basket Finland

It’s a tough weekend when you face two of the best basketball teams in the world on home territory, and come up short.

The Finnish men’s national basketball team Susijengi fell to Lithuania at Espoo’s Metro Arena on Friday night 72-88. On Sunday they lost 67-81 against Russia.

The games were important for Finland, bringing on a number of younger players with less experience, some as young as 19 or 20 and making their national team debuts.

“I think the experience the young players get playing against top level competition is something that you can’t simulate in practice, and it becomes very valuable that they have this experience” says Susijengi captain Shawn Huff.

“Especially thinking about the future of Finnish basketball, it’s important for as many players as possible have that experience of being comfortable against the top level and playing at that speed, and the decision making that comes from playing against the top level competition” Huff explains.

The weekend games were warmups for the Lithuanians and Russians who head to the basketball World Cup in China which starts in just 10 days time.

Finland however did not qualify for the tournament and instead was using the opportunity to give more experience to younger players ahead of the 2021 EuroBasket qualification games which start already in February.

“February is a long way from here but I think the most important thing for us being a smaller country is having all the players that are available coming in and playing for us” says Huff, who recently returned to Finland to play for Helsinki Seagulls, after more than a decade at clubs in Europe.

“That gives us a fighting chance and it makes us more competitive. It will again be a good test for Finnish basketball and a continuation for our journey to keep developing young guys and just be ready to lift basketball in Finland” Huff adds.