With the European basketball season about to commence, we take a look at ranking the top 5 Aussie men in our preseason rankings.
5 | Venky JOIS | Tartu Rock (Estonia)
Venky Jois signed with Estonian club Tartu Ulikool Rock to play in the Baltic Basketball League, but also the new FIBA endorsed Basketball Champions League. As it is his first professional contract, he will be looking to use his European adventure as a stepping stone to the NBA.
The 6’8 forward out of Eastern Washington University showed off some nice skills throughout his four years of college. Last season he delivered 16.4 points per game, hauled in 8.7 rebounds, dished out 2.5 assists and blocked 1.8 shots a night to round out an impressive collegiate career.
He showed off some unique skills for a forward of his size. Whether you’re talking about his guard like ball-handling and passing skills, or his ability to attack the basket off the dribble, Jois is not your typical modern-day 4. At college he rarely shot the three-ball, and instead, he banged it out inside the paint with other physical big-men. That’s why he draws so many fouls (5.7 free-throw attempts a night), and why he will be an asset to any team.
On the defensive end of the floor, despite being undersized for his position, Jois is a skilled rim protector, because his athleticism allows him to block shots at will. He forces offensive players to think twice about driving into the paint. He was duly recognised for his defensive talents by being named All-Australian Defensive Player of the Year for the past 3 years.
Jois has shown what he’s capable of doing at the college level, but now it’s about proving his skills will translate to the professional game. Is he up to the task? We think so.
4 | Clint STEINDL | Leuven (Belgium)
2015/16 NBL Most Improved Player of the Year, Clint Steindl chose to take his talents to Europe and signed with Belgium’s Stella Artois Leuven Bears.
The sharpshooting forward connected on 39.2% of his three-point attempts last season, while scoring a career high 12.7 points per game for the Townsville Crocodiles. As a fringe Boomer, primarily due to his length and deadly shooting ability, he will be hoping to continue his development in Europe.
With the length and athleticism Steindl possesses, it allows him to be an active defender. In Belgium, the team is going to need that from him as he’s going to be tasked with guarding the opposition’s best forward, and Steindl looks to be up to the challenge.
The Leuven Bears are looking to get the best from Steindl in the upcoming season. With Ben Madgen dominating the league last season, we will now get a chance to see if Steindl is also up to the task of producing in Europe.
3 | Ben MADGEN | Panevezys Lietkabelis (Lithuania)
Ben Madgen can put up buckets in a hurry; he led the Belgium Scooore League in points per game, averaging 19.6 a night, while shooting a career high 43.4% from behind the arc and 48.8% from the field.
His ability to score, and from almost anywhere on the court, forces defenders to stay on their heels at all times. Whether it be scoring out of the pick and roll, isolation or coming off of screens, Ben has shown that he can score in a variety of ways.
The feisty guard now moves onto playing in the Eurocup for Lithuanian club Panevezys Lietkabelis. Madgen will get another test as he takes a step up in competition.
Last year he had a tough go around with Verviers-Pepinster, as the team as a whole didn’t generate much success. However this season hopes to be different for the crafty Aussie guard, as he looks to make a name for himself among the Eurocup’s elite.
2 | Brock MOTUM | BC Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania)
As a stretch 4, Brock Motum landed 34.4% of his shots from behind the arc through 71 games across the Lithuanian LKL and Euroleague. Although his shooting wasn’t as high as he would have liked, Motum more then made up for it with his ability to score inside, and also break his man down off the dribble.
A lot of the slower forwards at his position can’t guard him because they need to close out on his shooting, which forces defenders into an awkward position; give up the open three, or let Motum drive by them for a lay up.
Defensively, he showed that he can switch out and guard the ball-handler in high pick and roll situations (an underrated asset) which is a unique skill to have, since the European game is played with a lot of screen and roll action.
Motum is hoping to find consistent playing time this season after experiencing his share of ups and downs despite being the highest paid foreigner in Lithuania. After helping Zalgiris earn their 6th straight Lithuanian title, he has become accustomed to playing against Europe’s top competition. So look out for a big year from the talented forward as he looks to build a standout career like so many other Aussie big men before him.
1 | Ryan BROEKHOFF | Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia)
A marksman from deep, Ryan Broekhoff is one of the best three-point shooters in Europe. His ability to make shots from behind the arc at such a high rate (44.8% across 62 Euroleague and VTB United League games) forces defenders to key in on him. The opposition cannot sag off and help, because he’ll score a three-pointer if left open. He is certainly not afraid of taking and making the big shots.
Yet, Ryan isn’t just a three ball specialist, he’s a two-way player.
On the defensive end of the floor his versatility allows him to guard point guards, shooting guards and even small forwards. But the energy he brings is what ultimately sets him apart on that end of the floor. Broekhoff brings a toughness defensively with the way he hounds opponents. Because of that, ball-handlers are always weary when going at him.
His numbers aren’t always flashy, but he is productive, that’s why Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar where so thrilled to have him back. Now with the upcoming Eurocup season coming to a start, Broekhoff will be keen to help Lokomotiv Kuban make history again (3rd in Euroleague last season), but maybe this time they come home with a trophy. With a big season, Broekhoff may well unlock a potential NBA career.
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