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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Why Americans should watch Euroleague Final Four

Many observers and participants are already calling the 2009 Final Four in Berlin in early May the best ever. While that remains to be seen, one thing that is certain is that the affair in the German capital is anything but just another European party. And American basketball fans will have plenty of reasons to watch.

Each of the four teams – CSKA Moscow, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and Regal Barcelona – have Americans playing a major role or Europeans with a connection to American hoops.

Here a breakdown of each the Euroleague Final Four squad for those American fans not in touch with the European game.

CSKA Moscow:
The defending champions from Russia have plenty of familiar faces:

J.R. Holden – the point guard from Pittsburgh starred at Bucknell University from 1994-98. He also made headlines for getting a Russian passport and leading the Russian national team to the 2007 EuroBasket title, hitting the game-winning jumper.

Trajan Langdon – the shooting guard hails from Anchorage, Alaska, and reached one NCAA Final Four with Duke from 1994-99, playing in the 1999 final. The 1999 1st Team All-American then played three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and came to Europe in 2002.

Erazem Lorbek – this sweet-shooting big man from Slovenia broke Michigan State fans’ hearts for leaving East Lansing after his freshman season in 2003 to return to Europe. The Indiana Pacers drafted Lorbek in the second round of the 2005 Draft (No. 46 overall).

Sasha Kaun – the little-used center from Russia helped Kansas to the 2008 NCAA title after playing there 2004-08. The Seattle SuperSonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder) drafted him in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft (No. 56 overall).

Viktor Khryapa – this extremely talented forward played two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers (2004-06) and then one-and-a-half with the Chicago Bulls (2006-08) before returning to CSKA.

Zoran Planinic – the Croatian point guard played with the New Jersey Nets for three seasons from 2003-06 before returning to the Continent.

Terrence Morris – the forward from Frederick, Maryland, played college ball from 1997-2001 with Maryland. He then played two seasons with the Houston Rockets (2001-03) and half a season with the Orlando Magic (2005-06).

Josh Childress – the forward from Lakewood, California starred four years at Stanford (2001-04) and played four seasons with the Atlanta Hawks (2004-08) before making his European debut.

Lynn Greer – the guard from Philadelphia starred at Temple University from (1998-02) and then played one season for the Milwaukee Bucks (2006-07).

Jannero Pargo – the guard from Chicago played college basketball at Arkansas (2000-02). He played the next six seasons (2002-08) in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets.

Giorgos Printezis – the Greek forward was selected in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs (Pick No. 58). The Toronto Raptors currently own his rights.

Vassilis Spanoulis – the Greek guard played one season in the NBA for the Houston Rockets (2006-07).

Mike Batiste – the Long Beach, California forward played college basketball at Arizona State from 1996-99. He played one season with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002-03.

Antonis Fotsis – the Greek forward played one season with the Grizzlies in 2001-02.

Drew Nicholas – the Long Island, New York guard played college ball at Maryland from 1999-2003 and won the 2002 NCAA title before moving to Europe.

Nikola Pekovic – the Montenegro big man was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft (No. 31 overall).

Sarunas Jasikevicius – the Lithuanian playmaker went to high school in Pennsylvania before attending Maryland from 1994-98. He returned to Europe before playing in the NBA from 2005-2007 for the Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors.

Regal Barcelona

Andre Barrett – the guard from the Bronx in New York played at Seton Hall from 2000-04. He played on and off in the NBA from 2004-2008 for the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers before moving to Europe.

Lubos Barton – the Czech forward played college basketball at Valparaiso University from 1998-2002 before returning to Europe.

Juan Carlos Navarro – the Spanish guard played one season in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007-08.

Fran Vazquez – the Spanish big man was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 11th overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft but never played in the NBA.

Ersan Ilyasova – the Turkish forward played two seasons in the United States – 2005-06 for the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League and 2006-07 with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Daniel Santiago – the Puerto Rican center played college basketball at New Mexico Military Institute (1994-95), New Mexico (1995-97) and St.Vincent College (1997-98). He played in the NBA from 2000-02 for the Phoenix Suns and 2003-05 for the Milwaukee Bucks.

David Andersen – the Australian center was selected in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft (No. 37 overall) by the Atlanta Hawks.