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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American Education: An Associated Press veteran’s takes on five Europeans in NCAA basketball

Auda “will be a big factor” for Seton Hall

European, NCAA and youth basketball fans will definitely want to check out episode five of heinnews/ BallinEurope’s “Taking the Charge” podcast series posted today; in short, it’s a ton of information on prospects and the NCAA game courtesy (in the first half) of Jim O’Connell.

O’Connell has written for NCAA basketball for the Associated Press since 1978 and has just recently completed his 3,000th game writeup for the wire service. His CV is way too long to detail here, but let’s just say it culminates with entry into the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

So who better, BiE figured, to get some insight from on a handful of European prospects in American college basketball in 2012-13? Below run O’Connell’s insights into Patrick Auda of the Czech Republic; Patrick Heckmann and Elias Harris of Germany; Deniz Kilicli of Turkey; and Will Yeguete of France – plus video clips!

(Teaser: O’Connell reckons one of these guys is destined for an all-American-level year…)

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March Madness: Taylor, Kilicli, Harris, Somogyi headline Euros in NCAA tourney day one

Taylor drives Vanderbilt

You may have heard that across the ocean, they’re tipping off something called The NCAA Basketball Tournament, a.k.a. March Madness. BallinEurope naturally has one eye on The Big Dance with feet grounded on The Continent. Happily, Europe is decently represented in the tournament and, after looking over the rosters, BiE definitely now has installed his personal favorites to take it all (since beloved alma mater University of New Mexico did not receive an invite).

Today, then, a brief look at the 13 Europeans participating in today’s first round action.

Headlining the Europack is definitely Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor. Hailing from Norrkoping, Sweden, the junior averaged a fantastic line of 15.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 stocks (steals plus blocks, stat category courtesy Bill Simmons) – all career highs excepting the boards – while representing the centerpiece of the Commodores’ offense after packing 25 pounds on during the offseason.

Worse yet for Vandy opponents Richmond: Local media covering the SEC tournament report that Taylor has found “a part of his game that has been missing at times this season,” namely aggressiveness – to the tune of 20.66 points per in three tourney games on 19-of-27 shooting on twos. “I think before [the SEC Tournament], I kind of faded in and out of aggressiveness,” the Swede was quoted as saying. Said aggression would prove useful in the bigger tournament: Vanderbilt has run up a record of 17-3 this season when Taylor scores 15 points or more.

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