The 2018/19 European basketball season is now well underway, with most of the bigger leagues tipping off across the past week and an increased presence of Australian rising stars. However it was a veteran guard who shone brightest, with Ben Madgen lighting up the German Bundesliga.
Having made the move from Lithuania last season, Madgen's magic translated to his new team called the Merlins just fine. He was on fire for the newly promoted Crailsheim Merlins in their opening round contest against Eisbären Bremerhaven, pouring in a game-high 31 points on an impressive 11-19 shooting. He would drain 7 three-pointers and add 6 rebounds in a brilliant individual performance, however despite his eye-catching outing, a 12-29 third term proved the Merlin's undoing. Crailsheim would go down swinging with Madgen at the helm, 80-93 in an encouraging opening round performance.
There is a distinct Aussie presence in Germany this season, with Xavier Cooks (s.Oliver Würzburg), Venky Jois (Rasta Vechta) and William McDowell-White (Brose Bamburg) all joining Madgen in the Bundesliga.
Having returned to Europe after a brief stint in the Japanese B-League last season, Jois made is Bundesliga debut in the starting line-up and made a decent impact too. The versatile forward contributed 7 points (3-7 FG) and 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block in 21 minutes for Rasta Vechta, however Medi Bayreuth proved to strong, holding off a 20-15 final quarter charge to win comfortably, 83-67.
Cooks came off the bench for 4 points (2-3 FG) with 3 rebounds in 10 minutes in Würzburg's 80-84 loss to Brose Bamburg. Würzburg pushed the former EuroLeague club all the way and made them work extremely hard for the win. William McDowell-White did not suit up for Bamburg who will also play in the Basketball Champions League this season. Instead the young point guard played for feeder team Baunach who lost a thriller in the German second division (Pro A) to Rostock 82-94 in overtime. The young point guard exploded for 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a stellar all-round performance, but it was not enough to lift his team to victory in a closely fought contest.
The Adriatic League tipped off, with Partizan Belgrade earning a tough 87-84 win against fellow EuroCup team Cedevita Zagreb of Croatia. Former Saint Mary's standout centre Jock Landale started, playing 24 minutes for a solid 11 points (4-7 FG) that included 1-2 from beyond the three-point arc. He also added 4 rebounds, and played a key role in the opening round victory. Partizan led by as many as 21 points, before Cedevita made a final quarter run to close to within 1 point late before holding on.
A 56-40 second half saw FMP Belgrade earn a hard-fought 13 point victory against Zadar also in the Adriatic League (99-86). The final margin was not befitting the contest, with little separating either side. FMP managed to gradually edge ahead in the second half to register the victory. Having graduated from LSU, Duop Reath came off the bench to play an important cameo, contributing 5 points, 2 rebound and 2 big blocked shots in 15 minutes. As he familiarises himself with the European style of play, Reath could well elevate his game in much the same way as Jonah Bolden did last season before him.
In the French second division (Pro B), first year professional forward Chima Moneke has been at the forefront of Rouen's successful 2-0 opening as a starter. In their season opener, he added 4 points and 9 rebound sin 20 minutes as Rouen knocked off Evreux 71-60. In the second win, a straightforward 84-72 victory over Caen, he added 6 points and 9 rebounds in just 18 minutes.