Podcast: Talking international hoops with GB U20s coach Douglas Leichner, SellOutXBoy

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #45 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

This week we’re talking (mostly) international competitions, though Hein does get off a good rant (well, as ranty as the guy gets) on FC Bayern Munich’s apparent moves to sop up all available talent from the BBL, while BallinEurope is in shock and awe over FC Barcelona’s acquisition of Bostjan Nachbar – seriously, just look at this roster.

*Then* we’re on to international competitions. First up in guesting to the show is the tweeter known as SellOutXBoy to explain just what in the name of Naismith is going on with the Russian national program in the wake of the shock firing/quitting/dismissal of national team head coach Fotis Katsikaris as well as the departure of federation president Alexander Krasnenkov. Believe it or not, it’s political. And possibly bleak.

Also joining us is Douglas Leichner, head coach of the U20s Team Britain; Leichner’s young charges ended up taking second place on the podium in the Division B side of the U20 European Championship and thus will move up to the top level for next year. Among other topics, Leichner touches upon Britain’s own Golden Generation of players…

Finally, there’s the sports movie review of the week. Check out the clip below, sort of a teaser-trailer for Mystic Ball, a 2006 documentary about Greg Hamilton of Canada and his attempts to learn the national pastime of Myanmar, Chinlone. In short the game can be described as a ball sport with only one team on the playing field at one time – and with no scorekeeping.

Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter http://heinnews.com/feed/taking-the-charge/ into iTunes or any podcast aggregator.

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Podcast: Interviews with Bostjan Nachbar, Nick Gibson; “No Phoenix, No Ashes” reviewed

Episode number 10 of the “Taking the Charge” podcast series, a co-production of BallinEurope and Germany-based heinnews, is now online. Headlining this ‘cast is an interview with Brose Baskets Bamberg and Team Slovenia’s Bostjan Nachbar, who spent a solid ten minutes with David Hein after wrapping a Euroleague game – mad, mad, the maddest of props to Mr. Nachbar!

Hein and yours truly go on to fill the aural space by chatting with the incomparable Euroleague AdventuresNick Gibson; about either website or man, BiE can say nothing negative. Gibson naturally shares about a zillion of his insights into the Eurobasket 2013 draw as well as happenings in the big ‘league, all done up in a mutated three-person version of Pardon the Interruption’s “Fact or Fiction.”

(Incidentally, the entire trio had some difficulties in categorizing this things – separating fact from fiction, one might say. All BiE can say is that this week’s podcast is the result of draw-breaking to late night coffees; a modicum of sympathy, if you will…)

Other topics of discussion include Nikola Vucevic’s fantastic start with the Orlando Magic; the Minnesota Timberwolves and the waiting game (at least half-finished now!); the Los Angeles Lakers; events in German Bundesliga basketball; the preeminence of Arvydas Sabonis in BallinEurope’s new logo poll; and way too much other stuff.

Our movie review of the week is “Phoenix in die Asche” (English title “No Phoenix, No Ashes”), a 2010/11 documentary capturing the trials and tribulations of Phoenix Hagen in its first Bundesliga season, particularly those involving an American player named Michael Jordan…

You can download the entire podcast here. Talk to you next week!

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Euroleague Power Rankings: 2012-13 Opening Day Edition

All right, it’s that time again! With hours to go before the 2012-13 Euroleague season tips off, BallinEurope breaks out its first power ratings for the big league.

Whereas normally a disclaimer to the effect of “the following ratings are based on current trending only and are not necessarily based on the overall quality of the teams” runs here, this year BiE’s switching things up a bit. To wit: For this edition of Euroleague power rankings, the teams *will* be run based on BallinEurope’s totally subjective viewpoint. (Mainly because BiE couldn’t figure out what to do with Barcelona…)

Get your arguments ready and read on for this season’s first power rankings, with Official BallinEurope Fearless Predictions™ for the upcoming season peppered throughout. Enjoy the games!

The favorites
1. Olympiacos Piraeus. The usual reserved spot for the defending champion comes with some justification this year, as Vassilis Spanoulis & Co. show no signs of letting up on their 2011-12 season-ending 22-4 run. In the off-/preseason, Olympiacos’ foursome of Spanoulis, local hero Georgios Printezis, Kostas Papanikolaou and Evengelos Mantazaris suited up for a disappointed Team Greece – all but Mantazaris acquitted themselves nicely, with 50-of-89 (56.2%) overall shooting and Spanoulis dishing out just under six assists per game in three Olympic qualifiers.

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Euroleague Playoffs games two: Impressions, notes, YouTube highlight clips

Games two of the 2011-12 Euroleague Playoffs have gone down … also down and just about out are Gescrap Bilbao Basket, once again outmatched and whipped by CSKA Moscow, 79-60. Unics Kazan may also be in the razor’s edge category as even a lackluster performance by FC Barcelona shooters – seriously, 19-of-57 (33.33%) overall and 13-of-43 (30.2%) not including Juan Carlos Navarro – wasn’t enough to buy the Russian side a win on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Montepaschi Siena managed to even up their series in a pair of thrillers: The former overcame Panathinaikos and lotsa noise for the 95-92 overtime win away, while the latter held off another fourth-quarter comeback by Olympiacos to tally an 81-80 squeaker in the win column.

And now, the BallinEurope YouTube compilation … what better to do on Saturday, anyway?

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Unics Kazan 76, Fenerbahçe Ülker 71: Impressions, highlights

Right, now we’re into it! BallinEurope was naturally pleased to see his dark horse elite-eight candidate Unics Kazan defend home court against Fenerbahçe Ülker on opening night of the 2011-12 Euroleague Top 16 round, 76-71 – though it sure wasn’t easy for Unics after they generously spotted the Turkish side a 17-point lead at halftime. A few talking points for you, then … and BiE’ll go ahead and do this bullet-point style.

• This game was quite the textbook example of the 13th man’s value to Kazan, as the second half was all Unics riding the home support after a disastrous second quarter.

• What was the deal with the Unics bench? Is coach Evgeny Pashutin simply unwilling to go seven deep with this side? Pashutin looked to be running his preferred quintet into the ground as Nathan Jawai, in for about 11 minutes, proved the only viable substitute for the Russian team last night. Terrell Lyday, Vladimir Veremeenko, Petr Samoylenko, Henry Domercant, and Mike Wilkinson all went for 28 minutes or more to score 68 of the team’s 76 points. Yes, Jawai had the other eight.

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Euroleague Power Rankings: Top 16 Tip-off Edition

It seems like forever, but Euroleague 2011-12 resurrects itself for Top 16 opening night tonight. What better way to celebrate, reckons BallinEurope, than with some good ol’ power rankings?

Once again, the caveat emptor-ish bit: These ratings are formulated from once source (namely yours truly) and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on performance in the latter bits of the EL season.

To the rankings!

Top dogs
1. CSKA Moscow (10-0 in Euroleague regular season; 8-1 in VTB United League, 7-1 in PBL) – Remember the date December 10, 2011: That’s the last time the scary Red Army lost, in falling to BC Khimki in Russia while getting just seven minutes out of Andrei Kirilenko. The Red Army’s only loss before that was exactly one month prior when they fell in a squeaker at Spartak St. Petersburg in their VTB opener. Considering the starting team alone – an all-star squad of Kirilenko, Milos Teodosic, Nenad Krstic, Ramunas Siskauskas, Viktor Khryapa – BiE has to wonder what non-NBA team could beat ‘em. Even after the star power, the CSKA Moscow bench contributed 43.2 points per game in Euroleague play while the team leads in overall performance rating, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. This has got to be considered the team to beat in 2012.

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Just because: 100 more of the greatest dunks of all-time

Oh yes, Ruben gets posterized

So what else are you going to do today while waiting for, say, Panellinios vs. Panathinaikos (tipoff time 5pm CET/11am EST) or Lugan Aro vs. Barcelona (tipoff time 6pm CET/noon EST)? Sounds to BiE like YouTube time.

Here’s the latest of the “Top 100 Dunks of All-Time” breed. Though it’s skewed heavily toward the showman-type stuff that doesn’t actually take place within the confines of an official game, this is a nicely-edited ‘Tube with mostly fantastic jams.

Unfortunately, too, players from The Continent are represented pretty scantily and are mostly on the wrong end of the poster. True to form, ever-reliable Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje is crushed at #90. Bostjan Nachbar’s NBA turn is punctuated emphatically by Gerald Wallace at #62. Andrei Kirilenko gets smoked in a classic at #55…

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Iverson, Besiktas blue-chippers not enough against Efes Pilsen, 85-83 (OT)

Say what you want about the European extension of Allen Iverson’s basketball career, the man can still play. Unfortunately, an utter lack of depth ultimately killed Beşiktaş Cola Turka and Ergin Ataman’s coaching debut with the Turkish club against Euroleague side Efes Pilsen Istanbul last night, 85-83 in overtime.

Iverson played a sliver under 40 minutes, going for 17 points on 6-of-11 overall shooting plus an impressive eight assists. Beşiktaş’ other blue chips turned in good-to-excellent games, with Cevher Ozer (27 points, 11-of-18, seven rebounds) the top dog, A.J. Ogilvy (7-of-12, 18 points, 14 boards) continuing as the double-double machine in the Iverson Era; and Mire Chatman (5-of-11, 10 points, six rebounds) solid.

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Basketball Dreaming: Will Taiwan Phenomenon continue?

Now something of a personal story, if you’ll allow BiE. One of the great things about working a blog such as BallinEurope – after getting proper press seating for stuff like Euroleague Final Four and FIBA World Championships, of course – are the people you meet as a journalist.

BiE’s not talking about hobnobbing with coaches and players so much – though talking (actually talking!) with Pops Mensah-Bonsu is quite the fulfilling experience – as the warm association with enthusiasts and peers. Happily in the sports journalism world, these are one and the same.

At the Euroleague Final Four alone, BiE had the pleasure of chatting up sportswriters from Serbia and Italy, the braintrust of quality sites like DraftExpress, freelancer Tim Warren on assignment with the Washington Post, the amazing Slam and Freaknick of Euroleague Adventures, fantasy basketball **#$#*#$%ing mastermind Javier Gancedo and scads of hardworking Euroleague front office folks.

But no one who met one particular writer there would forget the incredible whirlwind of drive and enthusiasm for all things basketball: Some of us know her as Nancy, but thousands of her readers daily identify her as “A Taiwanese Basketball Girl With A Basketball Dream.”

See, after first receiving a lightning bolt of revelatory inspiration from a newspaper photograph some 13 years ago – The Basketball Dreamer’s only a twentysomething now, it should be noted – she finally up and quit her job last March and, in Kerouackian fashion enviable to sentimental old dudes such as yours truly anchored down with young children, took to the road and came to Europe.

The purpose: As the bumper sticker-like intro at the Basketball Dream website reads, “63 days, 33 cities, 8 countries, 25 matches & 50 teams (including the Eurocup Finals & Euroleague Final Four). The journey, the Dream of a Taiwanese Basketball girl leaving her footsteps on the European courts, sharing her Basketball love in Europe with the rest of the World.” More philosophically, the “Dream is to promote Basketball & inspire, and that is all there is to it.”

Yes, the term “philosophy” is appropriate her, for this woman’s philosophy *is* basketball, BiE tells ya. The Basketball Dreamer lives a life of wall-to-wall basketball. When she’s not kicking around the courts looking for a game (or perhaps watching the games, what with a recently-gotten bum knee), she got an eye on a zillion screens and scores. Just yesterday, A Basketball Dream managed to fire off update-style posts and/or commentary – the Dreamer’s favorite online medium appears to be Facebook – on the Golden State-Phoenix, Duke-Michigan State, Cleveland-Miami, Los Angeles-Houston, and Maccabi Tel Aviv-Žalgiris Kaunas games. Even more impressive: Taiwan is EST +12.

In any case, this self-proclaimed aspirant to the title “Mother Theresa of Basketball” succeeded in her amazing road trip while the story captured hearts and minds of media worldwide. After landing on Euroleague TV (see above), the cause also landed her time on Taiwanese national television and print everywhere from Greece to Serbia to Hong Kong and back to Taiwan again – to name only a few paying attention to this whirlwind of basketball obsession.

Naturally, without an “On the Road” at the publishers’ to fund a second summer voyage in 2011, the Dreamer finds herself with few financial possibilities to fuel an even more enthusiastic trip. Ever the optimist and armed with a good cause, however, A Basketball Dream has applied for nonprofit backing in Taiwan.

Much to BiE’s surprise, the Dreamer somehow figured that perhaps BallinEurope.com might help in the quest for funding or possibly provide further armament in the perpetual war for publicity. BiE often chats up this tremendous natural force of an enthusiast but this week, Nancy spared some time to talk specifically about her goals, hopes and the future of the Basketball Dream.

BallinEurope: So what’s the status of A Basketball Dream 2011?
A Basketball Dream:
I’m applying to a fund for Taiwanese “dreamers” like me to see if they can sponsor me to keep on travelling and promoting inspiration through basketball. My plan is [to start at] the NCAA Final Four in Houston, then spend 2.5 months visiting all 30 NBA teams, then on to Latvia to support Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) at the FIBA U19 Worlds, then into the Balkans to hopefully getting involved with some camps there, then the FIBA Asia championship in Lebanon, EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and finally the World Deaf Basketball Championship in Italy.

BiE: And the goal is…?
To INSPIRE through basketball by promoting all the different games around the world. And to especially inspire the kids through [basketball] camps where interacting and teaching them about this game of basketball in turn teaches them about life and lets them have a sense of belonging. And when i say kids, i ‘m particularly into working with those who are “less advantaged.”

BiE: So you’re basically a one-woman FIBA…
Except also with the NBA and NCAA!

BiE: Everywhere you go, people want to hear your story and are willing to publicize it. What makes you and your quest so compelling, in your opinion?
Because i’m a girl. A Taiwanese girl. A Taiwanese girl who *plays* basketball.

BiE: Really? You think that’s it?
OK, because my love for basketball is second to none. Basketball gives me the strength and the supporters of A Basketball Dream that I meet along the journey give me the power, but i can’t do it on my own. I have *started* on my own … but i can’t finish it on my own.

BiE: Tell me about the picture on the website
The second i saw it in the newspaper about 13 years ago, it touched my heart, went straight down inside. I was GRINNING at the newspaper (gladly, if i remember correctly, that nobody saw me). I love kids, love to see smiles on their faces because it makes me smile. And not just on my face but from the heart! It brightens you up. And the fact that that kid was trying to pick up that huge-a** basketball, that just spoke to me.

I knew that I wanted to do something like that – I wanted to put smiles on kids’ faces (and see the happy faces, personally!) through this wonderful sport that I hold so dear, that I call mine.

Back then, i was just getting into the NBA, by the way. But basketball was already a big part of my life then. It’s all I wanted to do all day (waiting for PE class so I can shoot some with my friends.

BiE: Now, how tall are you?
Between 5’5” and 5’6”. (I only got to know my height in feet and inches, by the way, because of basketball.)

BiE: And you told me you *played center in college*?
Yes, i played center in varsity at National Chiao Tung University, because i was the third-tallest, i believe.

BiE: Do you play these days?
Not with my knee.

BiE: What happened?
I played too hard, pushed myself too hard, the weather changes (in the morning, it’s 5ºC degrees, 25ºC at midday, and then there’s another bigtime drop in the evening) and i didn’t warm up well. I woke up after two days straight days of ballin’ for two- to five-hour stretches in non-stop 3-on-3s. Finally, i woke up on January 17th at 6am in pain and i couldn’t bend my right knee at all. And i had just ordered a P90X – i was about to work on that “dunk” – ha ha!

BiE: So who did you manage to actually meet on your 2010 tour?
I met the coaching staff of Efes Pilsen, the players on Montepaschi Siena, Vlade Divac and his wife, Stephen Curry, Bostjan Nachbar, Josh Childress, Linas Kleiza, Kevin Durant … also A.C. Green. He’s a good person.

BiE: And you just approach these folks, tell them about the mission and chat?
Yeah, it’s pretty much all for A Basketball Dream

BiE: Do you have a personal life?
ABD: Ha ha, yes, i do, but i really wouldn’t mind spending all my time on basketball. I mean, the fact that i’m injured now helps. Or else i’d *always* be out on the courts.

But dedication is what it takes, right? So before I can sit back and relax, until the Dream is realized (if ever), i’ll dedicate myself to it as much as I can.


Highlights from Union Olimpija-Efes Pilsen 2OT thriller

The Euroleague’s game of the night last night and probably ultimately in all of week one was seen in the Union Olimipija-Efes Pilsen battle – and BallinEurope does mean battle – in Ljubljana. By the time the buzzer sounded, some 8,700 had thrilled to only the third double-overtime regular-season game in EL history, with Olimpija surviving, 95-90.

Official highlight clip and writeup follow the break.

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