The Malta Basketball National teams will be looking to make the most of their summer as FIBA broadcasted its draws for this year’s competitions, where Malta will be present in the Youth Division C championships for the Under-16 and 18 categories as well as the senior Small Countries Games – hosting the men’s championship at the Ta’ Qali Pavillion.
Speaking to the Times of Malta after the draws, Malta Basketball Association president Pawlu Sultana, who was also tasked with drawing a number of the competition’s teams during the broadcast, said that while the men’s draw looks ‘tough’ as the second seed, they are looking forward to it.
“As a second seed, you’re going to face tough opponents on either side but that’s how it is,” Sultana said.
Malta’s men have been put into Group A of the games which span from June 28-July 3, as they fight to redeem themselves after taking bronze in Ireland in the 2021 edition.
The side will be hoping for a return of big men Sam Deguara and Nelson Kahler, as well as speedy guard Jacob Formosa for the games as the majority of Malta’s internationals have all made moves to different clubs after the latter competition.
“Last year, we felt the absence of Sam Deguara, who tested positive for COVID-19 only a week before the games. We had some internal conflict and we lost the Andorra game, losing the silver medal like that,” Sultana explained.
They will face Andorra and Azerbaijan in the group stages, with Armenia, San Marino, and Gibraltar combining for Group B.
In the women’s games – held once again in Nicosia, Cyprus – Malta will be hoping for a better run after missing out on a medal in last summer’s competition. The side, which was transitional back in 2021, should be a better fit now as young players like Sasha Lecuyer, Kristy Galea, and Sophie Abela have all made upgrades in their club careers.
“We had a young team last summer and we’re making a turn over into this new side,” the Malta basketball president said.
“This year, we have some players returning, namely Ashley (Van Vliet) so things are looking a bit brighter.”
Malta’s girls will face Cyprus, Kosovo, Andorra, and Norway in a round-robin-style tournament on June 28-July 3.
This summer will see the return of FIBA’s youth championships, contrary to last summer’s mini-tournaments referred to as “Challenges”. Malta, part of the U-16 and U-18 competitions in Division C shall be getting used to countries like Albania and Andorra who are competing in all of Malta’s groups bar the boys’ U-16, where Andorra will not be taking part.
“For the boys, it’s always going to be difficult. In the girls, the draws were a bit more favourable for us,” Sultana admitted.
“We have girls who are very promising and we might have a good team. However, it all depends on what we find available.
“This is a youth tournament at the end of the day and you go there to develop these players and give them more experience. Obviously, when you’re there, you’ll try to win – so you want to have a competitive team.”
With Malta hosting the men’s games this summer, as well as the Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) in 2023, the association will be busy showing off the country’s upgraded pavilion. Sultana believes it’s very important that these games are being held in Malta as it shows that “FIBA are very happy” with the association’s progress.
“We’re going to play in front of our crowd, which is a boost that we haven’t really experienced as yet – this gives us an impetus,” he said.
“We’re ready to go and we’re looking forward to it.”
Under-16 boys Division C (July 12-17)
Group A: Albania, San Marino, Malta
Under-16 girls Division C (July 12-17)
Group A: Malta, Albania, Andorra
Under-18 men Division C (July 24-31)
Group A: Albania, Monaco, San Marino, Malta, Andorra
Under-18 women Division C (July 26-31)
Group A: Albania, Malta, Andorra
Small Countries Games Men (June 28-July 3)
Group A: Andorra, Malta, Azerbaijan
Small Countries Games Women (June 28-July 3)
Cyprus, Kosovo, Andorra, Norway, Malta