Tomorrow night sees the tipoff of the 2009-10 FIBA EuroChallenge, the third pan-European tournament featuring 32 of The Continent’s up-and-coming and/or smaller-market teams. Over the next two days, Ball in Europe will present a brief primer on each of the groups; first, the basics of Group A.
• BC Lokomotiv Kuban. A mainstay in Russian Super League basketball but new to Krasnodar after moving from Rostov before this season, Lokomotiv seeks to create a standing among the perpetually powerful clubs of Europe – a reputation they were once of the cusp of, having played in the FIBA Eurocup final in 2005.
Player to watch: Pero Antic impressed in Eurobasket 2009 qualifiers and final round for FYR Macedonia. Coming off the bench in the early rounds, Antic still managed 11 points per game in only 16 minutes of play per. For the tournament, he averaged 15 ppg to go with his 6.7 points per game. Look for Antik to use his range in drawing big defenders far away from the basket.
Last season: Finished seventh in the Russian Super League.
Current standing: The team is tied for third with UNICS Kazan at 4-2, behind – guess who – CSKA Moscow and Khimki Moscow region.
• BCM Gravelines Dunkerque. The French representative in Group A, Gravelines is another squad that should be making “The Leap” any day now…
Player to watch: Cyril Akpomedah, who’s currently averaging 9.9 points and 6.9 rebounds in Pro A ball. The 30-year-old big man is finally coming into his own, now in his second of a contracted three seasons with Gravelines. Plus, Akpomedah contributes his own “video blog.”
Last season: Finished sixth in France’s Pro A.
Current standing: Tied for second place in Pro A at 6-2.
• KK Budućnost Podgorica. Founded 60 years ago, Budućnost had its glory days in the 1990s, an era that saw the team take two Yugoslav Cups and three Yugoslav League titles in six seasons from 1995-2001. Budućnost has still managed to stay near the top back home, however, taking the 2008 Montenegrin Cup. Unfortunately, the team’s Eurocup bid last year resulted in a disappointing 1-3 mark in group play.
Last season: Won Montenegro’s Opportunity Liga.
Current standing: Tied for fifth in the NLB at 4-5.
• Representing one of the smaller markets in German basketball, MEG Göttingen enters their first major pan-European tournament just two seasons after reaching the Bundesliga top division and stunning the competition in 2008-09.
Player to watch: Small forward Chris Oliver, who leads Göttingen in nearly every statistical category, with a line of 18-plus points, 4.75 rebounds, and 1.25 steals per game. Oliver has topped 20 points in five of eight Bundesliga games this season. And he’s just 24, ladies and gentlemen!
Last season: Finished an impressive fifth in its second season in the BBL.
Current standing: Tied for 13th in the Bundesliga, though this low placement is based only on points earned – most BBL teams have played more than eight games – and Göttingen has run up a mark of 5-3 thus far.