Zaza Representing Georgia (EU)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010
By Jon Newberry

One year after leading the Republic of Georgia to the Division B Championship at EuroBasket 2009, Zaza Pachulia is helping his homeland take the next step toward a berth in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Last summer Zaza helped Georgia earn their first promotion into Division A by scoring 17.9 points and grabbing 8.5 rebounds per game (including a 34 point outburst against the Slovak Republic) as the team went 9-1 on the way to the Championship. Now the team is trying to qualify for EuroBasket 2011, which will serve as a qualifier for the 2012 Olympics in London.

To qualify for EuroBasket 2011, Zaza and his Georgian teammates will need to win their Group outright, or finish as one of the two best second place teams in the tournament. (This chart shows the qualifying format.) Georgia is part of Group C, and will be competing against Poland, Portugal, Bulgaria and Belgium.

Zaza and the team got off to a great start on Monday, defeating Marcin “The Polish Hammer” Gortat and Poland by a final score of 84-65 (Full recap and Box Score). Pachulia led all scorers with 26 points and added 8 rebounds while limiting Gortat to just 10 points and 3 boards. Zaza’s 26 was tied for the second most on the first day of competition, trailing only the Chicago Bulls’ Luol Deng, who scored 32 for Great Britain.

The Republic of Georgia remains a longshot to make the Olympics in 2012, but Zaza is helping the team reach uncharted territory with their recent accomplishments. The elevation to Division A sent fans into a frenzy last summer, and qualifying for EuroBasket 2011 would have to be considered one of the greatest athletic accomplishments in the country’s history.

Zaza and his teammates continue their quest to make history on Thursday when they take on Belgium.

Zaza has been listening to one Florida Alum brag about back-to-back NCAA Championships for three years now, but this is the first time he will continue to get an earful while competing overseas. Taurean Green, point guard on Al Horford’s teams at the University of Florida, gained citizenship in Georgia this past June and started against Poland on Monday.

Sergii Gladyr, the Hawks second round pick in 2009 and recent participant on Atlanta’s Summer League team, is playing for the Ukraine in the same tournament. He scored 8 points and pulled down 11 boards in his team’s first game, a 71-58 loss to F.Y.R. of Macedonia.

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