‘Stateside, this weekend saw the tipping off of college basketball across the country and, while most prospects from The Continent are avoiding the Kanter treatment to simply play with club teams here, BallinEurope still has eyes on a handful of European players looking to make an impact in the NCAA in 2010-11. Our official preseason NCAA All-European team comprises the following players, quite a few of which should be playing high-level professional hoops before all is said and done.
• Patrik Auda, Czech Republic; Seton Hall. Kevin Willard got something of a nice working holiday this spring as he checked out players at the Carnarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands. The fans were then gifted with their new 6’9” lefty forward in Auda. Willard and his recruiters reportedly had an eye on Auda throughout last season, including the Czechs’ personal highlight of an All-Tournament Team nod for the National Prep School Invitational held in Rhode Island in February.
• Matthew Bryan-Amaning, England; University of Washington. Is this the British version of Ron Artest? Bryan-Amaning came into his own in the second half of 2009-10 with an impressive stat line of 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 59.8% shooting over the Huskies’ last 14 games, seemingly setting a new personal best in one statistical category after another as the season wore on. The young Londoner is noted for his crazy 7’4” wingspan, which allows him to block shots with the authority of a seven-foot power forward while also possessing a sweet shot. Entering his senior year, BiE for one wouldn’t be surprised to see Bryan-Amaning crack an NBA roster in 2011-12.
• Pavol Losonsky, Slovakia; University of California Irvine. One of two Slovakians on the Anteaters (Peter Simek’s the other), Losonsky is the player of note regardless of nationality. In two games thus far, Losonsky’s gone for double figures and led the team in both categories with 13 points and eight rebounds in Saturday’s loss to USC.
• Karam Mashour, Israel; UNLV. Says Running Rebels head coach Lon Kruger: “[Mashour] is a very talented young player from Israel. He will become a very good shooter for us. He’s very athletic and he’ll get better each week.” Says the FIBA stat bank: In the 2009 FIBA Europe U18s championship tournament, Mashour was good for 5.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game over six games. Says BiE: Mashour had better leverage that high basketball IQ into adapting to a new position, because a 6’5” power forward ain’t gonna cut it at the top NCAA level.
• Brice Massamba, Sweden; UNLV. Massamba made a nice leap last season for his sophomore year, improving dramatically in nearly every statistical category for the Rebs while averaging 4.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. He also seemingly learned that he can control the paint with a fat 73.2% “shooting” percentage in 2009-10 to show for it. Head coach Lon Kruger is expecting Massamba to “improve that much again for his junior season,” explaining that “he’ll give us a little more of a low post scoring presence than he has the last two years.”
• Guy-Marc Michel, France; Indiana University. Michel should be a force for the Hoosiers this season, particularly considering the weak inside game they’ve shown thus far, except that the Martinique player is getting the Kanter-like runaround from the NCAA. At issue is Michel’s taking “college courses in France, where he played on a club basketball team that included professional players.” Though Indiana representatives have stated that they “expect Michel to be cleared by the NCAA in the next few weeks,” BiE suspects no one’s really holding their breath on either a ruling or a clearing…
• Mathis Mönninghoff, Germany; Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are touting their European freshman Mönninghoff and Mathis Keita of France as the wave of the future, but in the early going it’s the German that’s winning fans and teammates over immediately. After going for 12 points in the season opener, Mönninghoff earned enthusiastic approbation from team captain Steven Gray: “To see him come out in the first game and just shoot with total confidence was really good to see. I hope it can carry over through the weekend and through the start of the season.”
Indeed, Mönninghoff performed well enough in game two as well, contributing 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting in a big 21 minutes off the bench. We’ll see how the newbie performs when #3 Kansas State comes to town next Monday, though…
• Kyryl Natyazhko, Ukraine; University of Arizona. Wildcats enthusiasts were calling Natyazhko an “instant impact player” when he verbally committed to Arizona in May 2009. That didn’t quite happen, but head coach Sean Miller is hopeful for 2010-11 after the Ukrainian’s all-tournament 17.2 ppg/8.4 rpg performance in the FIBA U20 European Championship: “He led his country to heights they hadn’t had before, and he left with great confidence.” In the game one 90-42 laugher against Idaho State, Natyazhko was good for five points and four rebounds.
• Justin Robinson, England; Rider University. Team Great Britain may still be burgeoning as a basketball force, but at least they’ll have an undisputed leader at point guard in Robinson. On Sunday night, Robinson led the Broncs to its first victory of 2009-10 with 18 points, five assists and, most importantly according to local media, was “getting the ball … late in the game.” Two days after U. Mass double- and triple-teamed Robinson in the fourth quarter, the Brit found ways to free himself up against Lafayette – and his teammates found ways to get him involved. This year a senior, Robinson is six points from 1,000 for his NCAA career.
• Christophe Varidel, Switzerland; Florida Gulf Coast University. With his capability to shoot from anywhere and impressive-looking CV at youth levels, fans of European basketball will certainly hear this name well into the future even if no NBA team ever calls.
Varidel went for 17.6 points per game with Worcester Prep in 2009-10; for Team Switzerland, Varidel went for 19.3 ppg in FIBA U20s Division B play in 2009 and turned in an impressive line of 17.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in the 2010 FIBA U20 European Championship tournament. Unfortunately, Varidel was stifled a bit in the opener against Indiana, going just 2-of-9 in overall shooting in 19 minutes off the bench.
• Nikola Vecevic, PF/C, USC. Ready for a breakout year from the Montenegrin? This blogger is: “What makes USC a dangerous team is the frontcourt. Nikola Vucevic is coming off of a great season in which he averaged 10.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Vucevic spent his summer playing for the Montenegro national team [Actually that was 2009 – Ed.] and is a threat to score inside and out. He is by no means a lights-out shooter from long range and he takes too many outside shots, but the threat to score from the perimeter can open up the offense. Vucevic’s defensive skills helped USC lead the league in points allowed [in 2009-10]…”
Vecevic certainly looked monstrous against poor UC Irvine on Saturday night, putting in 19 points (including 17 in the second half) and 14 rebounds.
Also of note is Vecevic’s outstanding pedigree: His mother played on Team Yugoslavia in the 1980s; his father Borislav Vecevic boasts a Euroleague championship, a stint on the Yugoslavian national team in the 1985 Eurobasket tournament and a career lasting until he was 44 years old. And Vecevic the younger is with USC right now mostly at the behest of Nikola Dragovic.
• Enes Kanter, Turkey; University of Kentucky. C’mon, free Enes already!