Following two successful years with Besiktas Integral Forex Istanbul in Turkey and the Eurocup, Australian Boomer Ryan Broekhoff was lured to Russia to play with Lokomotiv Kuban and make the step up to the Euroleague. It is a challenge that he is looking to embrace, putting in the hard yards in pre-season to make the most of his opportunity and in making his Euroleague debut.
A bruising pre-season
Broekhoff's new side also features another player Australian fans may be familiar with - former Sydney King Dontaye Draper. Both players spent almost a month on the road in preparing for the season ahead, including 14 days in mountains of Slovenia where the team participated in 2 training sessions each day as outlined in Broekhoff's latest blog on the 2016 Road to Rio.
As he outlined, the team headed to Germany to play pre-season games against fellow Euroleague sides Bayern Munich and Brose Bamburg. Against Bamburg, he would demonstrate what Lokomotiv fans can expect to see more of this season from their latest Australian star: selfless acts to help the team win. He received a nasty black eye against Bamburg and a trip to the doctor for stitches for his troubles. It did not keep him away from the court for long.
Ryan Broekhoff with a nasty pre-season injury | Credit: Lokomotiv Kuban
"I needed a few stitches but it looked much worse than what it was, but I did have to have my head strapped for a week whilst training," explained Broekhoff.
That willingness to put his team first and to do whatever it is required to succeed ensured both Broekhoff and Lokomotiv were well placed for a big season ahead.
A mixed start in the VTB United League
Following their comprehensive pre-season, Lokomotiv once again ventured on the road to the Czech Republic to open their VTB United League campaign against CEZ Nymburk. After a promising start, the visitors would be overrun to fall short by just 2 points (74-76). Broekhoff started and was able to add 3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in the narrow loss. It's always tough to win on the road in Europe, however it was not quite the start that was hoping for, especially given the talented roster that they have assembled this season.
Next up Broekhoff went head-to-head with another former Sydney King and now current Kazakhstan national representative Anatoly Kolesnikov (formerly know as Anatoly Bose) and his side BC Astana. Astana would feel the full wrath of a side on the rebound, and were rolled 99-66. Playing his role to near perfection, Broekhoff would connect on 3/5 from long-range to finish with 9 points and 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. He outplayed Kolesnikov who had just 2 points in 16 minutes.
Ryan Broekhoff taking on Anatoly Kolesnikov (Bose) | Courtesy Lokomotiv Kuban
In finding their feet against Astana, Lokomotiv were well prepared for their return to the Euroleague, and Broekhoff's debut.
Stepping up to the Euroleague
Carrying over their great form against Astana, Lomotiv combined well as a team to account for Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos Athens 81-70. As has become custom, Broekhoff did what was required of him, supporting the team with 4 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist in 25 minutes. However his contribution should be measured by more than just appears in the box score.
Ryan Broekhoff's Euroleague debut against Panathinaikos | Credit: Lokomotiv Kuban
In a stacked Group B, Broekhoff was well aware of the importance of the opening round win.
"[It was] a very important win for us to start Euroleague, especially at home," Broekhoff explained to The Pick and Roll immediately after his debut.
"The intensity and physicality were the things I noticed the most as being on another level compared to Eurocup. It was a great experience."
To account for such a talented and successful side such as Panathinaikos in the Euroleague is a great achievement. Broekhoff noted that for Lokomotiv to achieve their goals this season, they would need to all work together as a team. If they can do that, then they could well make a big run in Euroleague this season.
"[We] are very happy to get a win against such a strong team," further added Broekhoff.
"I think that will be our strength. We have a lot of talented players who all must contribute for us to be successful."
Their next test will come against another talented side in Lithuania's BC Zalgiris Kaunas. It will be a contest that will see Broekhoff go up against fellow Boomer Brock Motum who shone in his team's first round win against Stelmet Zielona Gora. You can be sure that Broekhoff will be doing whatever it takes to ensure that it is his side that prevails.
Full List: Australians in Europe for 2015/16