March Madness a la Europe, Part I: Walk-ons, bench guys, standouts

OSU's Della Valle: It's gotta be the hair...

OSU’s Della Valle: It’s gotta be the hair…

The easy way to introduce a piece like this: Are you ready for March Madness? But of course that’s a rhetorical question as – despite the morphing NBA playoff picture and the Euroleague Top 16 round homestretch – the basketball world’s attention turns to the U.S. college game.

Fans of international ball will be pleased to note the distinct foreign accent in the 2013 NCAA Tournament: 47 of the 60 sides with spots clinched in the competition list non-U.S. players on the roster. And while Canadians and Australians (including three on Albany and two with Luc Longley’s alma mater the University of New Mexico) lead the bunch, 18 European players remain on tourney team rosters.

Below runs a brief look at the first half of Europe’s representatives in the big bracket; with the other nine set to play for one of three tournament teams, BallinEurope will pay particular attention to these guys in an upcoming article.

First up: The two guys listed on rosters who will not see action. Notre Dame’s Eric Katenda (France) announced this summer that he was ready to get onto the court for the Fighting Irish after suffering a freakish potentially career-ending eye injury while still officially a recruit. Unfortunately, this comeback story has only a bittersweet ending thus far: While coach Mike Brey has stated that Katenda’s scholarship will be honored, the Frenchman did not suit up for the team this season.

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Balling in college abroad: Checking in on some European NCAA players

With semesters coming to a close in European universities (well at least here in BallinEurope’s Budapest headquarters), BiE’s mind turned to the U.S. college game and specifically the European ballers playing in the NCAA. Below therefore runs some recent news – and video clips, natch – on 12 players plying their wares in the ‘States this season; starring Elias Harris, Denis Kilicli, Patrick Heckmann, Brice Massamba and more.

• Patrik Auda, Czech Republic; Seton Hall. In his sophomore year, Auda has earned the starting lineup for the 7-1 Pirates to produce an impressive 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game; in early December, Auda went for a career-high 17 points – all in the second half – against Auburn.

Auda has fit perfectly with the Seton Hall speedy offense this season, though it must be said that the Czech and his teammates haven’t met a true test against an NCAA superpower yet: That’ll come on December 28 when visiting current no. 1 Syracuse.

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Notre Dame grad Hillesland takes his blogging talent to Paderborn

Zach Hillesland has an announcement to make: “After spending five years and six summers in South Bend under the watchful gaze of the hypocritically expensive Golden Dome, I’m ready to leave.

“And where I’m going is Germany. To play basketball.

“For 8½ months.”

On July 20, German second-division club Paderborn Baskets announced the signing of Hillesland, the former Fighting Irish baller who missed out on the 2009-10 season due to injury. “So?” BallinEurope can hear you saying. “Another obscure American player goes to another obscure European team … why should i care?”

Well, because Hill has started up a blog entitled “Z Over There” to record his experiences in the (to him) exotic land where he’s relating his Pulp Fiction-esque takes on the little differences in Europe and the measurement of body fat by German doctors.

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Representing Lithuania in March Madness

With the NCAA basketball tournament field of 65 now set, Lithuania-based Basket News is taking pride today in a trio of countrymen participating in the tourney. Representing the yellow, green and red in March Madness will be:

• Deividas Dulkys, Florida State University. The sophomore formerly of Findlay College Prep managed 8.5 points and 2.4 boards per game while shooting with 39.4% success beyond the arc coming off the bench.

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