Steve Tibb takes a quick look back over the European basketball action over the past week or so and provides a recap on the notable performances by the Australian contingent.
First of all, Happy New Year!
A number of the Aussie men have commenced 2014 in fine style, heating up Europe in the middle of their winter with some hot shooting performances. I will tip-off this week’s update with all the action from Euroleague before making the trip around the various other leagues…
Two of our Aussie stars and their teams made it through to the top 16 in Euroleague this season. Joe Ingles and Maccabi Tel-Aviv along with Aleks Maric and Lokomotiv Kuban are both placed in Group F with their first games taking place over the past week with varying results. Both of our Aussies next game of Euroleague action is actually against each other, as Maric and Lokomotiv Kuban host Ingles and Maccabi Tel-Aviv on the 9 January.
Joe Ingles and his Israeli out fit Maccabi Tel-Aviv kicked off proceedings against Turkish side Galatasaray (Nathan Jawai’s team, however he is injured) in Istanbul. Playing in front of 11,000 wild Turkish fans, it was Ingles’ side who earned a road win in a surprise result. It was a see-sawing contest and required a 12-0 run to finish the game by Maccabi Tel-Aviv to seal the victory 90-84. Ingles didn’t have his best outing and failed to trouble the scorers in only 11 minutes of action off the bench.
Aussie big man Aleks Maric and Lokomotiv Kuban started their top 16 schedule hosting another Russian side in CSKA Moscow with the game going into overtime! Unfortunately for Lokomotiv Kuban it was CSKA Moscow who had the better extra period, going on a 13-6 surge in overcoming Maric’s side 84-77. Although he was not able ensure his team of victory, the 6’11” Aussie center should be proud of his efforts as he racked up a double-double with 12 points on 5-9 shooting with 10 rebounds (4 offensive) whilst also grabbing 3 steals.
Swingman Brad Newley had a great end and beginning to the new year. On 30 December 30, Newley and then fourth placed Gran Canaria took on lowly Spanish outfit Gipuzkoa with the Aussie helping his side cruise to a 63-56 victory and move to third place in the process. Newley got the start and in 30 minutes of game time had 13 points on a hot 5-6 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. He backed up that effort on 5 January when Gran Canaria travelled to Madrid to play then 14th placed Fuenlabrada. Newley orchestrated the victory by putting up 21 points going 7/11 from the field including 4-7 from beyond the 3-point line and 3/4 from the charity stripe. Not only was Newley scoring, but he also played the role of facilitator in dishing out 5 dimes as Gran Canaria won 83-78 and maintained 3rd spot on the ladder with a 10-4 record. Newley’s next game is on 12 January as Gran Canaria host 14th placed La Bruixa d’Or.
Over in the Ukraine it was a week of conflicting emotions for Aussie sharp-shooter Daniel Kickert. His team recorded two victories in the Ukraine Superleague whilst Kickert rang in the New Year with a bout of Salmonella poisoning. In their last game for 2013, 8th placed Azovmash and Kickert travelled to 13th ranked Dnipro. Azovmash controlled the whole game and led by 14 at the half and increased it to 17 by the last break. That lead proved to be enough to hold off a 28-18 last quarter charge by Dnipro, Azovmash holding on for the 87-80 victory. Kickert contributed 16 points and 9 rebounds in falling just short of a double-double.
After spending 3 days in the confines of a Ukrainian hospital with Salmonella poisoning, Kickert would have been forgiven for not playing at his best in Azovmash’s first game for 2014, however this was far from the case. Kickert and Azovmash begun the New Year in style, earning an 85-74 win against Neptunas. The big Aussie replaced his hospital gown for a basketball uniform and scorched Neptunas to the tune of 23 points on some hot shooting. Kickert went 9-15 from the field that included 2/5 from long-range and 3/4 from the line along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. It was great all around game by Kickert who along with Azovmash next take on VEF Riga on 12 January on the road.
Aussie Brock Motum and his Italian side Virtus Bologna began the New Year on the road against Tuscany Pistoia. Perhaps still experiencing a New Years Eve hangover, Virtus Bologna dropped a very winnable game by a 1-point, going down 79-80. Motum played 29 minutes off the bench in contributing 9 points on 3/4 shooting and pulling in 4 rebounds. Motum, who played his college basketball at Washington State, has so far had an outstanding professional rookie campaign and with his minutes continually increasing, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all.
Speaking of outstanding rookies, over in Turkey young Aussie forward Ryan Broekhoff finished 2013 with a bang! On Christmas day his side Besiktas who have a 6-6 record on the season, played lowly ranked Aliaga who were 2-10. Broekhoff and Besiktas came away with the easy win 91-53 with the Aussie scoring 9 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in 16 minutes of action off the bench. Besiktas then took their two game winning streak into Bursa against tenth ranked Tofas. Whilst Broekhoff’s side couldn’t finish the year with a victory, the Australian rookie had arguably the best game of his short professional career. He finished the game with a new career-high of 18 points in shooting a sizzling 5/7 from the field that included 3/5 from beyond the arc and a perfect 5/5 from the free throw line. Throw in 5 rebounds and 2 steals in 25 minutes of action off the bench, and Broekhoff is showing the Besiktas coaching staff that he is worthy of more playing time in 2014.
In the Sweden, two Aussies were pitted against each other with former Melbourne Tiger Liam Rush and his side Uppsala taking on former Perth Wildcat Rhys Carter and his team Eco Orebro. It was the former who was able to prevail, with Rush scoring 15 points while grabbing 5 rebounds as Uppsala managed a 100-83 victory. Rhys Carter contributed 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in a fine all-round performance for Eco Orebro. Rush is leading his team in scoring this season with an outstanding average of 18.6 points per game to go along with 6.4 rebounds in the hope to be noticed by more prominent leagues around Europe. Carter is also enjoying a fine season, averaging 14.9 points, 6.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
My player of the week this week goes to Daniel Kickert who has been close the last couple of weeks but overshadowed by some monster efforts. Not only did Kickert have a fantastic week, but he has arguably been Australia’s best and most consistent player in Europe all season in averaging 18.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per outing.
Please feel free to have your say by leaving a comment below and telling me who your player of the week was?