No world games for Holden, Russia

Russia dropped a 92-74 decision to Croatia Sunday at the European Basketball Championships, leaving the Russian team with its second straight eighth place finish.

The top six in the tournament qualified for the upcoming World Championships. Russia's hopes of qualifying were dashed Friday in an 89-78 loss to Lithuania.

Bucknell grad J.R. Holden, the naturalized Russian citizen who was granted citizenship in order to allow him to play the point for Russia, finished as the 10th leading scorer in the tournament, averaging 12. points per game despite playing only six minutes (and scoring just 2 points) in the 7th-8th place game against Croatia.

Holden struggled from the field much of the tournament, shooting just 35 percent, but so did the Russian team, which lacked much of an inside presence, especially when forward Andrei Kirilenko (who plays for the Utah Jazz in the NBA) broke his nose in a quarterfinals loss to eventual champion Greece.

According to Holden, despite the disappointing finish, the future is bright for the Russians.
"Look at Andrei Kirilenko, Sergey Monya, Victor Khryapa. These guys are all really young. And they have a great future," said Holden, an American naturalized Russian who was playing in his first international tournament for the Russian national team.
Holden pointed to the loss of Kirikenko, the team's top scorer, as a big factor in Russia's medals round failures.
"We missed him in the middle," Holden said. "He's a great shot blocker, and he gives us so much good defense."

He added: "How's Germany without (Dirk) Nowitzki. Who knows? But we played a hard game without the best player on our team."
For a complete wrapup of the tournament, visit Eurobasket 2005.

By the way, in case you missed it, USA Today was the latest U.S. publication to take notice of Holden's presence on the Russian roster, featuring him in a story Friday.

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