When Mike Fratello arrives to head up his national team coaching gig in Ukraine, he won’t see too many familiar faces beyond Sasha Volkov. Volkov played for the Czar’s Atlanta Hawks for a couple seasons way back when; unfortunately, Volkov hasn’t actually played ball at any level since year 2000. Coupled with the fact that Fratello hasn’t coached at any level since washing out of Memphis in 2006 and, wow, the television guy is facing lots of unknowns.
Here’s to thinking Fratello will rely on past experience to guide his new team. His historical preference for grind-it-out defense is sure to mesh well with a big, physical Team Ukraine; the side is also blessed with lots of shot blocking at its disposal. Will the Czar be imagining past glories as he trains in Europe? To when in the past will he look while watching his players in the present? BallinEurope looks at some potential role models for Eurobasket 2011.
• Serhiy Gladyr
Current team: Basquet Manresa
Scouting report: “Gladyr is a 6’5” shooting guard with nice athletic ability … What makes Gladyr intriguing is his shooting: He’s one of the better pure shooters in the draft. His shooting numbers are not overwhelming (36% on three-pointers), but he clearly has a sweet-shooting stroke … [at 19 years old, he] already shows the ability to drill shots coming off screens. … He’s not strictly a shooter thanks to his athleticism and good ball-handling. Pretty nice handle where he loves to use his left hand, and has an effective crossover dribble. Did have some issues when trapped on pick-and-rolls … had some issues in general when a second defender approached him … Solid rebounder for a 2-guard … Sergiy is a pretty good athlete by Ukrainian League standards, but how he rates as a NBA athlete is hard to gauge. If he was a Top 10 scorer in Spain or Italy then I’d feel more assured of his potential.” (The Painted Area, June 2009)
What he’s doing in 2010-11: So now Sergiy is 21 and, while averaging 9.1 points per ACB game – second-highest on his team to Uros Slokar – doesn’t put him onto Spain’s top 10 scorers list, BiE thinks The Painted Area must be pleased with Gladyr’s progress. It seems Gladyr’s three-point shooting still underwhelms, as he averages 1.6-for-4.7 shooting beyond the arc per ACB game, good for right around – you guessed it – 35%. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for this Ukrainian; could an NBA draft selection be in his future…?
Role model: Dan Majerle, who Fratello himself may barely remember, as Deadly Dan played just a single season with the Cavaliers and started only 15 times. Like Majerle, Gladyr is noted for his ball-handling skills and is particularly difficult to stop (or to stop from shooting) anywhere on the floor if single-covered. As Majerle is today one of the relatively unsung heroes of those Charles Barkley-led Phoenix Suns teams of the 1990s, so would a sharpshooting Gladyr should Team Ukraine surprise.
• Oleksiy Pecherov
Current team: AJ Milano
Scouting report: “[Pecherov] has shown the ability to create his own shot off the dribble and pulls up quickly and efficiently, squares to the basket very well and gets vertical… Tough to guard close to the basket … Free throw shooting is excellent … High flyer … Good defender, has excellent foot speed, especially laterally … It is rare to find a player with his type of size, speed and strength combination … His passing ability has shown some improvement, but he lacks great vision to find teammates off the dribble … Must get a lot better at protecting the ball … Mental toughness has been a question for him in the past.” (Coast 2 Coast, January 2010)
What he’s doing in 2010-11: After missing two months due to injury, Pecherov is back on track with AJ Milano, playing over 20 minutes per game to score 10.6 and grab 6.2 boards per in Serie A play.
Role model: Fratello will certainly be looking for a Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a.k.a. “the best foreign player that I coached in terms of what he has achieved during his career,” and similarly to Big Z has enviable ball-handling skills for such a big guy (2.13 meters, or a sliver under 7’0”). For Pecherov’s sake, let’s hope Fratello can help him evolve that passing ability to Ilgauskasian levels. Or maybe the Czar should just play him like Hot Rod Williams … nah.
• Kyrylo Fesenko
Current team: Utah Jazz
Scouting report: “Blocks shots and rebounds pretty well … Likes to take the outside shot … Very green yet (Hoops Hype, mid-2009); “Best case: Andris Biedrins. Worst case: Mario Kasun.” (Draft Express, 2009)
What he’s doing in 2010-11: Touts who have been following this guy since at least 2005 would surely enjoy seeing some dividends paying off for the Jazz already. Unfortunately, this ultra-talented 24-year-old is buried on the Utah bench behind Al Jefferson and Mehmet Okur. Here’s to hoping that Fesenko gets a bit more than eight minutes’ worth of playing time for Team Ukraine in Eurobasket 2011 (he will) and thus gets more TV time.
Role model: Tree Rollins and Kevin Willis rolled into one. Talk about the evolution of the athlete in the 21st century: in their time with those then-superpowered Atlanta Hawks of Fratello, Rollins and Willis were huge. Now? Fesenko has 40 pounds (18.2 kilos) on either of those guys and he many still be growing, having added 30 pounds (13.6 kg) in the past three years. With a little mobility, Fesenko could be scary indeed.
• Serhiy Lishchuk
Current team: PE Valencia
Scouting report: “Serhiy Lishchuk, the top shot-blocker this season in the Eurocup, is a major part of Azovmash having given itself a chance to qualify [for the final eight round]. The 26-year-old power forward has been the most distracting defensive presence in the competition, averaging 1.6 blocks over the first 11 games this season. In the Last 16, when Azovmash needed it most, Lishchuk elevated his game even higher, scoring 12.2 points per game, second on the team, while remaining a force on the defensive end with 1.8 blocks on average.” (Eurocup, March 2009)
What he’s doing in 2010-11: In his second season with Valencia, Lishchuk is seeing less court time at about 17.0 minutes a game but is contributing 7.1 points and 4.4 rebounds perRole model: One of the few bright spots in Fratello’s tenure with the Memphis Grizzlies was the emergence of Shane Battier not only a double-digit point-scorer but as a classic do-it-all contributor, a player whose importance was magnified on defense and mostly kept off the stats. While Lishchuk brings a game dissimilar to Battier’s, the 28-year-old is bound to have a magnified role in terms of court time but will mostly be key to the half-court defense.
• Maksym Pustozvonov
Current team: Azovmash Mariupol
Scouting report: “Excellent small forward, who can also play position 4. Can play pick-and-roll at either position with the ball and as a screener. Very good outside shooter…” (BeoBasket, July 2010); “One of the key players of BC Kiev … nailed 13.3 ppg in Eurochallenge and 13.6 in the Ukrainian Superleague.” (Sportando, July 2010).
What he’s doing in 2010-11: Pustozvonov had a decent campaign with Azovmash in Eurocup play this season, producing steady double-digit performances in six games and shooting 47.2% overall. In Ukrainian play, Pustozvonov has been good for 9.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game on 43.6% overall shooting.
Role model: Danny Ferry. But wait, before you form the lynch mob in Cleveland: Consider Ferry’s Duke days when he could shoot from anywhere and still crash the boards. Plus, like it or not, Ferry’s most productive years came during Fratello’s reign as head coach there. In 1995-96 and 1996-97, Ferry was typically used as a starter and was encouraged to shoot frequently; Ferry managed 46% shooting on twos in his best year with Fratello, but nevertheless increased his rebounds, assists and steals to almost acceptable levels in those seasons. Visualize Pustozvonov as a potential-realized Ferry…