(Editor’s note: Carroll College media release)
HELENA — Carroll College sophomore forward Eetu Villa will represent his home country of Finland at the FIBA U20 European Championships in Matosinhos, Portugal, beginning on Friday.
Villa began practicing with the U20 team in early June with the end goal of competing the U20 European Championships this month. It will be the third European Championship Villa’s competed in, having suited up in the U17 and U18 European Championships as well.
“The level of play in the tournament is always very high, and the atmosphere is great,” Villa said. “I’m very much looking forward to getting the chance to represent my home country, Finland. It is always very special to me.”
The Finnish national team is playing in Division B. FIBA operates under a promotion-relegation competition system. This means the top three finishers in Division B are promoted to Division A for future events, while the bottom three finishers in Division A drop to Division B.
At the U20 Championships, Finland will be playing in a pool consisting of the Czech Republic, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania. With a FIBA World Rank of 24, the Fins are the highest-ranked team in their Group pairing. Finland won the 2015 U20 European Division B Championship.
“We’re missing a few of our guys from the previous years,” Villa said. “They have already made the leap to play for the men’s national team, so our group has some shoes to fill. I’ll try to contribute as much as I can for the team to be able to win.”
Villa’s role grew throughout the year as a freshman with the Fighting Saints. He appeared in 28 games and posted a career-high 11 points against Providence in February. He played in every national tournament game for the Saints as they marched into the national championship this past spring.
“The tough competition of the tournament is going to be valuable game experience for me and it’ll for sure be helpful for next year,” Villa said. “Also, our coach said that even though winning is important, the main goal for us this summer is to improve as players, so that we can have the best season of our careers next year. With that said, we’ve worked on a lot of individual skill as well.”
Finland’s first game is on Friday at 1:30 p.m. MST (20:30 GMT+1) against Albania. It will be played at the Pavilhao Municipal de Custoias in Matosinhos.