US Presidential Election 2012: America’s basketball diplomat hits hardwood for last-minute votes (plus Official Fearless Prediction™)

Love him or hate him after nearly four years in office, one thing is for certain: Barack Obama is the first basketball president – a fact that could curry lots of favor with Generation X and Y voters in a celebrity-charged election.

Sure, Bill Clinton was lucky enough to enjoy his home-state University of Arkansas’ 1994 victory in the NCAA Tournament and play host to the Dream Team in ’92. Sure, guys like George W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon were often more erudite when discussing sports than, you know, politics (check out “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72” for Hunter S. Thompson’s interview with Tricky Dick, an interview which Thompson was told could only be about NFL football). And the Kennedys surely won popularity points for their picturesque family touch-football games.

However, no US president has leveraged sports fandom on an international scale like Obama. (Check out BallinEurope contributing writer Enrico Cellini’s piece on his pet project, tracking Obama’s basketball diplomacy moves.) And the president’s preference for basketball represents the rise of the NBA and to some extent NCAA hopes during David Stern’s reign as the big league’s commissioner.

(Is it any coincidence that Obama came to professional prominence in that hometown of the 1990s’ Incredibulls? BiE thinks not.)

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Europe can wait … or maybe not: An interview with Georgetown alum Austin Freeman

Despite receiving a nomination for the 2011 Big East first team in his senior year, former Georgetown Hoyas guard Austin Freeman went undrafted by the NBA and so flew overseas to play for Libertas Fulgor Forli’, a team based in a small North Italian city and playing in the second-division Legadue. Enrico Cellini met with Freeman at the gym after a recent practice session to chat with him about his new life on and off the court.

General managers of European powerhouses tend to distrust American players out of university, as their teams cannot afford to await the player’s adaptation to a system that’s all about team execution. This is why even young talented players with prestigious college résumés may have to start professionally in the provinces of Europe.

A big Carmelo Anthony fan, former Hoya Austin Freeman is a powerful 6’3” (190.5 cm) guard with a wide shooting range: “I think I’m more like a Joe Johnson type of player, but I like watching many players and try to take a little something out of them.” Last season, his senior year as a Hoya, Freeman scored 17.6 points per game and joined Kemba Walker in the backcourt of the All Big East First Team.

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The Eurocentric 2010-11 NBA Preview (or How the Hoops World revolves around Europe)

With the 2010-11 NBA season tipping off tonight, BallinEurope marks the occasion in the best way possible: By overrating the league’s Continental players and making a few offhand Fearless Predictions™ in the guise of a preview column.

Brief notes and snarky remarks on all 25 NBA teams follow. (Yes, BiE said “all 25.” Since the Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and Los Angeles Clippers boasts no Europeans, they can’t really be considered proper NBA teams for our Eurocentric viewpoint.

Southwest Division
Some folks are calling the 2010-11 edition of the Dallas Mavericks its strongest team ever; it’s also a pretty good Team France embryo, with Ian Mahinmi, Alexis Ajinca, and last year’s sensation Rodrigue Beaubois helping make up Dirk Nowitzki’s posse. Unfortunately, the Western Conference may be tougher than Western Europe this year…

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Official 2010 BallinEurope mock draft, version 3.0: Round one, the second 15

And so it goes: With the NBA Finals on the verge of completion along with a few big domestic Euroleague league and the 2010 FIBA World Championship still months away, the attention of many a basketball fan must turn to the NBA Draft. BallinEurope’s man in the U.K., Sam Chadwick, continues his reassessment of the official BallinEurope NBA Mock Draft with updated prognostications for the second 15 choices in round one.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Anderson (6’6’’, SG, Oklahoma State, Junior). Minnesota again. Look for them to trade some picks away, but if not James Anderson is a solid two guard. The Wolves don’t need bigs or point guards and they took a small forward with their first pick in the BiE mock, so a shooting guard seems fine here.

17. Chicago Bulls: Paul George (6’8’’, SF, Fresno State, Sophomore). Chicago has hosted some workouts and Paul George seems to be their favourite player so far. If he’s gone or if Xavier Henry is available, I suggest they pick him up; otherwise James Anderson may go here as the next best shooting guard.

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Draft profile: Nemanja Bjelica

Now that the pingpong balls (or computer algorithm or mad scheme cooked up by David Stern, whichever you prefer) have spoken, we can truly let speculation on the 2010 NBA Draft run wild. Following up profiles on the likes of Donatas Motiejunas and Miroslav Raduljica, BallinEurope’s man in the U.K. Sam Chadwick today takes a look at versatile Serbian Nemanja Bjelica, projected by most in-the-know as a second-round pick this year.

This writeup comes courtesy of a reader’s tip: Dzoni asked us to take a look into a guy called Nemanja Bjelica of Red Star Belgrade. Well, I have looked and I like what I see.

This guy is 6’10” (2.08 meters) and the amazing thing is he plays guard, whether shooting or point. Bjelica’s height not only allows him to see over defenders and make the open pass but also to hustle inside and get the rebounds. In ranking the 1988-born generation, prospect specialist website Eurohopes has Bjelica at no. 8, behind only Danilo Gallinari, Nicolas Batum, Omri Casspi, Rodrigue Beaubois, Viktor Claver, Alexis Ajinca and Raduljica: Excepting Raduljica, all of these have been drafted and most are playing at a high level in the NBA. Anyway, onward with the profile.

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