(Ed: Bump -- Chris)
European basketball is complicated and figuring out how things work is difficult but not impossible.
The top-tier European league/event is the Turkish Airlines Euroleague and second-tier league/event is the Eurocup. These two events include teams from all of Europe as well as Russia. What makes things tricky is that these events have regular seasons and playoffs, but they involve teams from different leagues using a convoluted qualification process. What makes things even more confusing as that the Euroleague and Eurocup competitions run concurrently with many of the other national and international leagues.
Here is an example of how messy things can get. Paul Davis and Drew Naymick play in the VTB United League in Eastern Europe and Russia. Davis plays for Khimki, the top team in Group A, while Naymick plays for CEZ Nymburk which is currently in 8th place in Group B. Khimki, located in Khimki near Moscow, also plays in the Euroleague (the top-tier European league) and the Professional Basketball League (PBL) in Russia. CEZ Nymburk also plays in two other leagues which are the National Basketball League (NBL) of the Czech Republic and the Eurocup (the second-tier European league).
This can make a player’s schedule pretty hectic. Take Naymick for example again. On January 30, 2013 Naymick played for CEZ Nymburk in the Eurocup. Two days later, on February 1 Naymick played a game in the VTB United League (getting beat by 10) and another game in the Czech NBL (winning by 38). So in three days, Naymick played in three games in three different leagues including two games in one day. And you thought the B1G schedule was rough.
Without spending more time on the Euroball format, let’s take a look at how some recent MSU grads are faring in Europe. (Players in order of recency)
The 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year plays for Banvit Basketball Club in Bandirma, Turkey (Chris Hill’s former club) which competes in the Eurocup and the Turkish Basketball League (TBL). Banvit made it the round of 16 of the Eurocup, but after going 3-3 in the round of 16 play, they were edged out of the quarterfinals by Buducnost VOLI in a tiebreak situation. Lucas played 30 minutes per game and averaged 13 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in Eurocup play.
Eurocup competition ended on February 20 for Lucas and he is now back to TBL competition. This season he is averaging 23.5 minutes, 9.5 points, 1.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in the TBL. This is Lucas’s second season with Banvit. Last year, Banvit made it to the semifinals of the TBL before losing to Anadalou Efes. Banvit is currently in 1st place in the TBL and playoffs will begin in April.
Morgan is currently playing for the Netanya GreenTops in the Israeli-Winner League (AKA Super League). The league is currently nearing the end of the regular season and Netanya is fighting to hold its spot in the top half of the league (6th out of 12) in order to gain automatic entry into the 8-team quarterfinal playoff structure. This season, Morgan is playing 25.1 minutes per game and averaging 12.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 0.9 steals per game.
Playing for Cedevita Zagreb, Suton is now teammates with former IU star Bracey Wright. Cedevita is located in Zagreb, Croatia and plays in the Adriatic League and the Euroleague. Also, being one of the top teams in Croatia, they automatically qualify for the championship round of the Croatian League (A-1 Liga) without having to play in the regular season. So they got that going for them, which is nice.
Cedevita Zagreb did not make it out of the regular season of the Euroleague, going 2-8 in Group C. Suton played 12.5 minutes per game and averaged 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in Euroleague play which ended for Cedevita Zagreb in December 2012.
Suton has since been playing in the Adriatic League in Eastern Europe which primarily features teams from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia. Cedevita is currently 13-11 and in 7th place of 14 teams in the Adriatic League. With 2 games left in the regular season and trailing the 4th place team by 2 games, it appears unlikely that Cedevita will make the 4 team semifinal playoff format. Suton has been coming on strong for Cedevita in the second half of the TBL season though. After averaging only 5.5 minutes per game in the first 10 games of the season, Suton has since played 19.7 minutes per game and averaged 8.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game.
The all-time MSU shot block leader continues to protect the paint in the Czech Republic where he is the Czech National Basketball League (NBL) leader in blocked shots. Naymick plays for CEZ Nymburk, which plays in the VTB United League, the Czech NBL and competed in this year’s Eurocup. In the Eurocup, CEZ went 3-3 in the regular season and advanced to the round of 16 where they did not fare as well. After an initial victory in the round of 16, they lost 5 straight and were bounced from the event on February 20. Naymick played 15.8 minutes per game and averaged 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots in Eurocup play.
The VTB United League is made up of 20 teams throughout Eastern Europe and Russia and has two groups. CEZ plays in group B and is currently 5-11 and in 8th place out of 10 teams and will not compete in the playoffs. Naymick missed the game on March 10 due to injury, but has played 15.5 minutes per game and averages 5.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocked shots per game in VTB league play.
While CEZ Nymburk is overmatched in the VTB United League, they are by far the best team in the Czech NBL. They are 26-1 while their closest competitor is 18-9. Naymick plays 17.0 minutes per game and averages 8.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and a league-leading 1.7 blocked shots per game.
After being drafted by the Clippers in 2006, Davis is now playing for Khimki, one of the top teams in the VTB United League and a legitimate Euroleague contender. Former Illinois standout James Augustine and Davis make up the starting frontcourt for Khimki which advanced to the round of 16 by placing 2nd in their initial group. After 10 games and with 4 games left in the round of 16, they stand at 6-4 and 3rd place in Group F. The top 4 teams in Group F will advance to the quarterfinal playoff format with the top 4 teams from group E.
Davis is the team’s leading scorer in the round of 16, averaging 16.0 points per game. In Euroleague play (including the regular season), he is playing 18.5 minutes per game and is averaging 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.0 blocked shots per game. Playing this well for a contender at the highest level of European competition is very impressive and don’t be surprised if Davis gets another shot at an NBA roster someday.
In the VTB United League, Khimky is tied for first in group A with a 13-4 record. They earned a bye in the round of 16 and will play in the quarterfinals beginning in May. Davis averages 13.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in VTB United League play.
After helping lead MSU to the 2005 final four, Chris Hill has had a very successful European career playing in France, Belgium and Turkey. He currently plays for Entente Orleans in Orleans, France. The team plays in France’s Pro-A league and was a 2013 Eurocup competitor.
In Eurocup play, Orleans went 2-4 in the regular season and did not advance to the round of 16. Hill averaged 22.0 minutes, 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Orleans is currently 11-11 in the France Pro-A league (France’s top league) and is tied for 8th place out of 16 teams. The top 8 teams qualify for the playoffs and Orleans is currently tied with 2 other teams for 8th place so the final 8 games of the season will be important for Orleans as they make a run for the playoffs. So far in league play, Hill is averaging 26.0 minutes, 12.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.3 steals.
Stats provided by eurobasket.com and league standings were taken from league websites. If you have any questions or updates about MSU players in Europe tweet me: @de_boe