One of the main pros about the new FIBA international window is not even about basketball itself, explains Finland’s Jamar Wilson.
While there are more opportunities to play for your national team, the downtime is just as important both physically and mentally.
“It gives me a little bit more of a break in the summer to be able to spend time with my family, but I like the fact that you get to play throughout the season as well,” Wilson explained in an interview with FIBA.
“It’s nice to be able to go home during the season, sleep in your own bed, to have a little time off and spend some time with your family and eat your own food.”
Wilson, along with his Wolfpack will get to experience that this week but first Finland will travel to Reykjavik on February 23 to face Iceland. The Finns will then return home to host Bulgaria two days later.
And in a way, Finland’s playing style is similar to that of Iceland, who like Wilson, broke into the international scene in 2015, so the match-up will no doubt be intriguing to watch. The two teams fought in last year’s Eurobasket group phase in Helsinki with the Finns prevailing in a game that was recognised for the infamous ‘viking clap’ performed by both sets of supporters.
“They play some small ball and they are pretty fast as well and shoot it,” said Wilson when talking about Iceland’s style of play.
“They try to up the tempo of the game and make it more fast paced. I definitely see the similarities but that’s what you see with a lot of teams that are not big. We’re not a big, big team so being mobile, coach wants us to play fast, outwork the team we are playing so yes there are definitely similarities.”
But the contest last summer in Helsinki has seen many changes in international play. November’s window, where Finland split their two World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, the latter being a narrow 82-80 win.
Many of the game’s NBA players that travel to Europe to play for their countries do not feature perhaps until the league season ends. For Finland, that included Chicago Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen. Petteri Koponen and Sasu Salin were not able to compete either due to their domestic duties – however, while it made for a slightly weaker roster – Wilson, who bagged 21 points in the win over the Bulgarians back in November sees the bigger picture.
“I think in general, the Finns see the bigger picture,” he admits.
“In the last decade there has been a lot of success in the sport of basketball so it’s very hard to watch the team without having Lauri be a part of it, but at the same time, part of Finland, in general, is looking for the next Lauri.
“He came through the system so we knew what we had but it wasn’t until he was put on the big stage to perform that he proved it to everyone. Finland is becoming a home to good basketball culture, good players, so I think people, in general, are starting to have more respect for the game of basketball.”