For Sergey Karasev, the 22-year-old Brooklyn Nets forward, his biggest priority this summer is taking a leadership role in returning the Russian national basketball team back to being a contender in the FIBA Eurobasket tournament, where it faltered a disappointing campaign back in 2015.
Without NBA players such as Karasev, Timofey Mozgov and Alexey Shved, and gone the days of Andrei Kirilenko, Russia was embarrassed in 2015, having lost four of their five games. With that reality having set in, Karasev told FIBA.com that he is making it his mission to lead Russia this summer in order to qualify for 2017.
"I hope that everyone will come to play this summer and that everyone will be ready," Karasev told fiba.com.
"I speak with Mozgov when I see him on the road or when he comes to play here [in Brooklyn], I hope to see him, Alexey [Shved] and all the guys in the summer and I am looking forward to playing with them on the national team."
Karasev, who will be a free agent this summer, could use the Eurobasket qualifiers as an opportunity to raise his profile. Again, at just 22, he has a lot of basketball still left in him, but maybe more so he has a chance to show growth and leadership qualities that could make him even more attractive as an NBA free agent.
It won't be easy for Russia to advance, even if they're able to pull in some of their prime NBA talent, such as Mozgov and Shved, but Karasev knows that failing to qualify is not an option.
"For sure it's going to be fun and I hope we qualify...We have to," he told FIBA.com.
Karasev will meet a familiar face this summer, in playing against former Nets teammate Mirza Teletovic and his national team from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who both play in Group C of the qualifying tournament. In addition, Juan Pablo Vaulet, the Nets' Argentine stash, is likely to compete for the Argentine Olympic team and Bojan Bogdanovic will try to get his Croatian team, which includes Mario Hezonja and Dario Saric, into the Olympics. Croatia must first make it though the Olympic qualifying round in Italy before moving on to Rio.