One hot-button topic in the European basketball world got a bit more heated yesterday: Word has it that The Azerbaijan Basketball Federation has opened talks that would install American-born players Jaycee Carroll and Nik Caner-Medley on the men’s national team in preparation for Eurobasket qualifiers.
Twitter tremors on the acquisitions – and let’s just call them acquisitions, shall we? It’s just business, after all – are still occurring, but the overriding sentiment only with an interesting bit of information was perhaps best summed up by Sportando’s tweet:
Jaycee Carroll has the same agent as Nik Caner-Medley who got as well passport from Azerbaijan. Europe, where fake passports happen.
As for BallinEurope, yes, we’re addressing the topic. Enrico Cellini weighs in on the subject below.
Suppose you are the head of a basketball federation in a tiny state with little tradition in the sport and must prepare for the Eurobasket 2013 qualification round. You would:
A) Hire a foreign coach with long European Basketball resume;
B) Invest in young players that could turn out to be good in the future; or
C) Just do like everyone else and grant national passports to American players so they can play in your national team.
The Azerbaijan federation opted for the third way and went shopping in the Spanish ACB. According to Eurobasket.com, Real Madrid shooter Jaycee Carroll and Valencia BC forward Nik Caner-Medley “have agreed to start the process of joining the Azerbaijan national team.”
Carrol and Caner-Medley would join the vast group of American players that have acquired “exotic” citizenships for basketball purposes, mostly from Balkan states and Eastern Europe. Probably the most clear-cut case starting the trend was when CSKA point guard J.R. Holden was declared a Russian citizen by decree of then-president Vladimir Putin (!) in 2003. The Pittsburgh native subsequently became a leader of the national team and even got to bring Russia back to the throne of European basketball by scoring a decisive buzzer-beater in the 2007 Eurobasket final.
Since then, countless players followed the same path. Just looking back at the last Eurobasket 2011 you could spot many “suspicious” citizens: Montepaschi Siena’s point guard Bo McCalebb was FYR Macedonia’s leader, Henry Domercant played for Bosnia & Herzegovina, Omar Cook for Montenegro, Earl Rowland for Bulgaria. Unlike Holden, none of them had ever played in the domestic league of the countries they represent.
Azerbaijanis-to-be Carroll and Caner-Medley should be next, but it is fair to expect they will not be the last.
Enrico Cellini is lifelong basketball fanatic and a long-time sportswriter with a focus on Italy and Spain. He was born among European hoops, was raised watching the NBA, and thinks choosing between American and European basketball is like choosing between one’s mother and father. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Italian-language blog Hoop Addicted.