EuroView: Aussies primed for the European season
The major European leagues including top continental competitions the Euroleague and Eurocup are now upon us, it is time to look at not only which Australians are playing where, but to analyse their form going into another season of quality basketball played in front of some of the world's most passionate fans.
Andersen and Maric leading the Aussie charge in Europe - Photo credit Scott Belzner - Sb4photos.com
Australia's most notable export to Europe and without a doubt also the most successful is David Andersen. A 3-time Euroleague champion who has also won domestic titles in Spain, Italy, Russia and Turkey, the Australian center has joined a new team in France after playing last season there with Strasbourg. Andersen joined Asvel Lyon Villeurbanne who happen to be part-owned by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker.
Andersen and Asvel have already taken part in some big matches, recently participating in the Euroleague Qualifying Tournament in vying for the coveted last spot in Europe's top continental competition. After taking care of Belgian hosts Telenet Oostende where Andersen had 13 points, then recording a second win against his former team Strasbourg where he contributed 10 points, Andersen would put in one of his better performances in Europe over recent seasons in the final qualifying contest against Russian outfit Unics Kazan.
Asvel would have the game in the palm of their hand, leading by as many as 19 points only for Unics Kazan to outscore their French opponents 49-26 in the second half to take the match and last Euroleague spot with an 88-79 victory. Andersen would do most of his offensive damage in the first half on his way to an impressive match total of 24 points and 9 rebounds. However it all proved to be in vain as Asvel will now compete in the second-tier Eurocup competition in addition to their domestic LNB league.
Another Australian competing at the Euroleague Qualifying round was former Adelaide 36ers big man Daniel Johnson. He has joined Polish club Stelmet Zielona Gora, the former team of European veteran and now Melbourne United forward David Barlow. The team was looking to return to the Euroleague after failing to progress to the final 16 of last year's competition.
These qualifying round games were the first of significance for Johnson in undertaking his first season in Europe following a brief stint in Puerto Rico, and he showed no nerves with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Unfortunately this would be where the Polish side's Euroleague aspirations would end despiteJohnson's solid performance in a losing effort to eventual qualifying victors Unics Kazan.
Another player making his professional debut in Europe this season is former Melbourne Tiger guard Chris Goulding. Goulding comes off an NBL season averaging a league leading 22.8 points per game while also making his debut at a major tournament for the Australian national team at this year's FIBA World Cup in Spain.
While Goulding's minutes were limited as part of the Boomers World Cup campaign, he has enjoyed a strong start to the pre-season with his Spanish team CAI Zaragoza. Speaking on the team's website, Goulding arrived at his new home keen to do well for a team that will compete in the Eurocup as well as the Spanish ACB league, a competition considered the strongest domestic league outside of the NBA.
"From everything I've heard it (Zaragoza) is a basketball crazy town," Goulding said.
"At the end of the day I'm here to help this basketball team win and to try and do well in the Eurocup and ACB."
After 6 points on debut where he rolled an ankle, Goulding backed up against Euroleague team Valencia with 16 points in 25 minutes of action. Goulding enjoyed further matches scoring in double figures with 12 points in a 10-point victory and then 13 points in an 87-73 loss to strong Russian side BC Khimki. Also scoring 13 points in that contest who is a team-mate of Goulding's this season was former Perth Wildcat Kevin Lisch.
In Goulding's debut he was up against a player returning to Europe and Spain after also enjoying a strong season in the NBL last year. Andrew Ogilvy recently signed with Spanish side La Bruixa d'Or Manresa and is primed to do well. Leading the NBL in rebounds last year with the Sydney Kings, Ogilvy received the playing time and exposure he craved after a lean time of it previously in Europe. After playing with Besiktas in Turkey, Ogilvy spent time at Valencia in Spain and then with Brose Baskets in Germany before the lure of home and increased court time took hold last season.
His experience with the Kings in the NBL looks to have done his game the world of good, commencing the season strongly and pleasing his new team's management who were full of praise for him as Manresa's sporting Director Pedro Romero explained to the sport.es website.
"He passes the ball very well, has a good mid-range shot and understands the game well," he said.
"(Andrew) will be an ideal complement to our team, and hopefully bring his knowledge and experience from a big league team like Valencia."
In his debut against Goulding's Zaragoza who won the game 92-84, Ogilvy scored 16 points before netting 24 points in a 94-80 win against fellow Spanish team Joventut.
Coming off a strong FIBA World Cup for the Boomers is Ryan Broekhoff who returns to Turkish side Besiktas and will join Andersen, Johnson and Goulding in the Eurocup. After averaging 58% from 3-point range during the World Cup, Broekhoff looks to have maintained his nice stroke leading into the coming season with a 17 point outing against Belarus side Tsmoki Minsk in a 79-75 victory as part of a tournament held on Besiktas' home floor in Istanbul.
Broekhoff would again reach double figures with 10 points in the final of the 4-team tournament as they went down to fellow Turkish side Darussafaka Dogus 67-64.
Also returning for another season in Turkey is Nathan Jawai. Jawai returns to Euroleague powerhouse Galatasaray after only playing a handful of games for them last season after seriously injuring his shoulder early in their campaign. While Jawai was part of the Boomers World Cup tilt in Spain, he was only used sparingly as he worked to regain match fitness after last logging court time a year ago in October.
Jawai has enjoyed much-needed court time this pre-season, even starting some games at center as he did as part of Galatasaray's first match at the Kaunas Acropolis tournament recently held in Lithuania. Jawai would manage 9 points and 3 rebounds in a loss to Russian side Lokomotiv Kuban before they would enjoy an 89-71 win against Greek giants Panathinaikos. Jawai would see only 12 minutes of action in the game as he battled foul trouble.
While Australia was lucky enough to have a player on last year's Euroleague champion Maccabi Tel-Aviv side in Joe Ingles, he has now moved on to the hardwood of the NBA and the Los Angeles Clippers. However Maccabi have kept the Aussie flavour alive and well in Israel by signing center Aleks Maric who comes from having enjoyed a successful year in Russia with Lokomotiv Kuban.
Maccabi have a busy pre-season with its major matches recently starting in Rio de Janiero, Brazil as part of a tour that also sees them play against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets on their home floors. Going up against FIBA Americas League champions and local Rio team Flamengo in a 2-game series, Maccabi took victory in the first game 69-66 with Maric starting at center but only managing 11 minutes of court time.
In the final match, Flamengo took the honours 90-77 and with that the Intercontinental Cup, having the greater aggregate across the two matches. Maric scored 4 points in 12 minutes of action.
Back in Spain, Brad Newley has returned for another season at Gran Canaria after enjoying a solid season last year that resulted in the team qualifying for this year's Eurocup. Newley has been eased back into pre-season competition after completing Boomers commitments at the World Cup with a recent 11 point effort in a loss to MoraBanc Andorra his standout performance thus far.
Herbalife Gran Canaria has been drawn in the same group as Andersen's Asvel team for this year's Eurocup ensuring both Boomers veterans will go head to head in the early stages of the competition.
EuroLeague (Commences 16 October 2014 Australian time)
Galatasaray (Nathan Jawai)
Maccabi Tel-Aviv (Aleks Maric)
EuroCup (Commences 15 October 2014 Australian time)
ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne (David Andersen)
Besiktas (Ryan Broekhoff)
CAI Zaragoza (Chris Goulding)
Gran Canaria (Brad Newley)
Stelmet Zielona Gora (Daniel Johnson)
Check out Pick and Roll's complete listing of Australians playing in Europe this season that includes a Twitter list of associated player Twitter accounts.