With FIBA EuroChallenge 2009-10 just getting heated up right now, BallinEurope presents its primer on Group H, a quartet of teams with generally much international tournament experience.
• BC Kyiv. A regular in pan-European competition, Kyiv has played in FIBA tournaments in six of the last seven seasons, missing only 2008; the team boasts a second-place finish in the 2005 FIBA Europe League Men and a third in the 2006 EuroCup competition.
Player to watch: With coach Vitaliy Cherniy’s well-publicized emphasis on defense, the onus should be on 2.12-meter tall veteran center Viacheslav Kravtsov as a stopper; in Ukraine, at least, he hasn’t disappointed.
Last season: A slightly disappointing fourth-place finish in the Ukrainian Super League, as Kyiv had medaled annually since 2000.
Current standing: In a solid second place at 7-2 in the Super League.
• Keravnos Strovolou Nicosia, another old hand at FIBA tournaments, has participated in the last seven years’ worth of EuroChallenge incarnations and has been involved in European tournament play for 15 of the last 16 years, missing extra play only in 1995.
Player to watch: Check out veteran Carmelo Lee of Puerto Rico; the small forward is just off a Puerto Rican national championship with Bayamon earlier this year and his travels bring him to Keravnos after a decent season with Ironi Ramat Gan in Israel in 2008-09.
Last season: A loss in the Cyprus Basketball Division 1 championship got Keravnos second place.
Current standing: One of three Cypriot teams at 3-1 and trailing fellow EuroChallenger APOEL.
• Chorale Roanne Basket. Though founded in 1937, Roanne boasts only two French championships, the latter coming in 2007; the good news is that this decade represents a glory-days period for the squad, as Roanne appears to be capable of staying in Pro A for years to come now.
Player to watch: Pape-Philippe Amagou, a member of Team Ivory Coast, second-place finishers in the 2009 FIBA Africa Championship. After a respite away from France for a season with Kavala BC, Amagou returns to the league in which he played from 2002 to 2008, including all-star seasons of 2006 and 2007. Would you believe this guy’s only 24 years old? You may not when you see him…
Last season: A fifth-place finish in Pro A.
Current standing: A 6-2 record has Roanne in a four-way tie for second in the LNB’s top league.
• KK Zagreb. Yet another tough competitor for this stacked group, Zagreb participated in the 2008 EuroCup and went 5-5 in the last FIBA EuroChallenge.
Player to watch: Damir Mulaomerovic. Paok’s loss is Zagreb’s gain, as the former club’s financial problems freed up the point guard from his contract in Greece to be snapped up by the Croatians. Last season, Mulaomerovic went for 12.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in eleven games in Greece’s top league; even better for (almost) all parties: Mulaomerovic previously played with Zagreb for four seasons.
Last season: A third-place finish in Croatia’s A1 Liga.