|Per Günther: "We definitely want to win games and get out of the group, that's all we're going to care about at the beginning"|
By David Hein
Germany international point guard Per Günther insists his country's young national team will be out to show the world at EuroBasket 2013 that they are for real and he hopes to play a big role in proving it.
"I don't know what position we're going to end up, but we just want to make a splash and show that this generation is definitely for real and that we can play," said Günther, who helped Germany qualify for Slovenia 2013 with a perfect 8-0 record in Qualification Round Group B last summer.
"We're just going to go out and ride what we had last summer. We were 8-0, and we want to prove that wasn't just because we played bad teams. That was because we are good and can play against good teams."
The 25-year-old Günther finally emerged as Germany's leading point guard last summer under new coach Svetislav Pesic after only playing a total of 15 minutes under previous coach Dirk Bauermann at the 2010 World Championship and not being nominated for EuroBasket 2011 at all.
After helping Ratiopharm Ulm reach the finals of the 2012 German BBL playoffs, Günther made the national team last summer and was immediately handed the reins by Pesic.
Over 20 minutes a game the 1.84m playmaker averaged 7.0 points, 2.3 assists and 1.4 rebounds in Germany's eight wins, three times scoring in double figures against Luxembourg (10), Bulgaria (16) and Azerbaijan (14).
Günther admits that he will have to prove himself anew this summer as Frank Menz has been installed as Germany's new national team coach to replace Pesic. Menz was Pesic's assistant coach in 2012.
"I'm going to have my chances. It's a new coach so everybody has to prove themselves again. Nothing is guaranteed. My mindset is I just want to go out there and have the same role as last year," said Günther.
"He hasn't promised me that. We haven't really talked about the specifics. I just want to be there, and I'm confident that if I'm healthy that I'm going to get a good role and that I'll play well."
When asked if he expects any changes to Germany's style of playing under Menz, Günther added: "I don't know. I would have to guess. I don't think he will copy what Pesic did. He will have his own system.
"I'm convinced that he will be the national team coach for a long time now. He'll try to establish what he wants to do as a head coach. I haven't worked with him as a head coach so I'm not familiar with his philosophy. It will be new for me too."
|Günther is full of praise for his backcourt partner Heiko Schaffartzik|
"MAYBE WE CAN EVEN CATCH FRANCE OFF GUARD"
"In general we definitely want to win games and get out of the group, that's all we're going to care about at the beginning. We're not going to say that we want to reach the quarter-finals," said the playmaker.
"I think it's a group that kind of leaves everything open. If you look at it, you would probably say that France is the best team by a margin. But you never know who will show up for France. And after that, I think it's pretty up for grabs. Any of those teams, if they play their best basketball, can win games. Israel can be dangerous. We can be dangerous. There's not one team that you can beat easily."
Germany face France in their opening game in Ljubljana - which could actually be a good thing, Günther says.
"I feel that's an advantage. If we want to advance there are one or two must-win games. Maybe it's better that we don't play a must-win game as the first game.
"Maybe we can even catch France off guard. It's the first game for everybody. I feel like if we're going to have a shot at beating them, it's probably going to be a good time to play them. And it won't be a must-win. In case we don't have our best day, I don't think it's the end of the world," said the guard.
Günther and fellow point guard Heiko Schaffartzik played often together on the court under Pesic, a tactic that the Ulm guard believes can be successful in Slovenia as well.
"There are matchups where it will be tough - like against big and long teams like France. But at the same time there are teams I feel there is an advantage that we can run Heiko off the ball at the two and come off screens," Günther said.
"I think he's tough to guard for a bunch of two-guards. He can be really fast and push the ball and handle it in transition. I feel it can be a weapon."
According to Günther, another weapon on the way up in German basketball is 19-year-old sensation Dennis Schröder, who has played for Germany's youth teams at the U18 European Championship 2011 and the U20 European Championship 2012.
"I'm sure he'll be in the camp in the summer. It's exciting for German basketball that we finally have such a huge prospect at that position.
"I gotta come to camp in good shape. I have to be ready and be prepared that there's a young guy who's going to come for me and Heiko," said Günther about the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig guard Schröder.
"He can do it all - score, shoot, rebound. He's poised and has a lot of confidence. He's going to play a good role in German basketball in the future."