Australia’s brightest basketball talents are littered across various basketball leagues all over Europe. From the sunny beaches of the Canary Islands to frosty port side towns of Poland. Let’s take a look at where the Australia’s best basketball players are plying their trade across the European Continent.
Joe Ingles (FC Barcelona Regal – Spain)
He was possibly the most talked about Boomer in London as he poured in over 15 points per game, played stellar defence on all-world talent and took upon somewhat of an on court leadership role, particulary when Patty Mills was off the floor. Joe Ingles will suit up for his third season of Euroleague competition with FC Barcelona.
Last Season: Ingles had a much better season in the Spanish ACB than Euroleague last season. Delivering 6 points per game and 48% from downtown in the Spanish league compared to 4 points per game and 23% from downtown in 21 Euroleague games.
NBA Radar: During the Boomers Olympic run Joe Ingles was linked to half the teams in the NBA. His outstanding play had many an NBA scout whetting their lips, Minnesota’s David Kahn reportedly had several discussions with Ingles’ agent, but with one year remaining on his contract and NBA teams unlikely to pay for Ingles release from Barcelona, means Ingles instead will test the NBA waters in 2013/14.
Motivation: This season Joe will move up Barcelona’s depth chart considerably after his Olympic break out. Now the team’s primary backup small forward and coming off the back of winning a Spanish League Championship, a great Olympic campaign and some serious NBA buzz, what more motivation for a big season could you need? Developing a much more consistent game and hitting the weight room will not doubt be a huge focus for Ingles if he hopes to remain in NBA GM’s minds 12 months from now.
David Andersen (Fenerbahçe Ülker – Turkey)
In the past five years David Andersen has plied his trade across Russia, Spain, USA and Canada. This year he will continue on his nomadic journey and play for Istanbul’s most prestigious sporting team. Can Australia’s most successful international player ever add a Turkish league title to his ever impressive resume?
Last Season: Andersen is truly “Mr Consistency” when it comes to Euroleague play. His 11.7 points per game last season fell right into line with his 10.6 points career average, he also reeled 6 rebounds a game for Montepaschi Siena. His inspirational play against Olympiacos whilst injured in the Euroleague finals was a testament to Andersen’s warrior spirit.
NBA Radar: He had a great season for the Houston Rockets in 2009/10 before being juggled between Toronto and New Orleans benches and then facing an unkind NBA lockout. Andersen’s NBA run didn’t come at the best time, but the big man is adamant that he wants to return to the NBA and is planning to use this Euroleague season as a springboard back to the “show”.
Motivation: The absence of Andrew Bogut in London allowed Andersen an opportunity to show Australian basketball fans the talent we never got to see as a result of him leaving our shores in 1999. He has garnered more accolades, won more championships and earnt more money in Europe than any other Aussie who has come before him. His legacy is already set, but the chance to have one last run in the NBA should see Dave produce yet another phenomenal Euroleague season.
Nathan Jawai (FC Barcelona Regal – Spain)
Nathan Jawai joins Aussie teammate Joe Ingles in Barcelona, making the transition from long, cold -5 degree winters in Kazan, Russia to summer Barcelona style. “Aussie Shaq”, “Outback Shaq”, “Baby Shaq”, whatever you wanna call him. He is Australia’s most dominating player today.
Last Season: Nathan Jawai played an average of 14 minutes, getting 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in Euroleague competition. He had a career in points (21) and offensive rebounds (6) in his last game against Barcelona, hopefully he can bring that kind of production on the regular now that he is in a Barca jersey full time.
NBA Radar: Jawai had an NBA workout with the San Antonio Spurs in June where he apparently did well, but instead chose to play in Barcelona where a guaranteed roster and bank cheque awaited him. Jawai is no doubt on many team’s NBA radar’s but the job security afforded in Europe seems more to Nate’s liking right now.
Motivation: Expect “Big Nate” to come out all guns blazing after the Australian Boomers decided to exclude him from the Olympic team this year. He rejoined his ‘mates’ for a couple of games for the Cairns Marlins in the Queensland Basketball League in July which hopefully allowed him to recharge his batteries and focus on making a lot of noise in Barcelona this season, and hopefully a second chance at an NBA career.
Brad Newley (CB Gran Canaria – Spain)
Brad Newley’s defence was a big key to the Boomers success in London. This year he takes his game from one side of Spain to the other. He moves to the Gran Canaria basketball team, where he will team with Slovenian legend Uros Slokar as well as be able to sip Sangria’s along the Canary Islands.
Last Season: Last year Newley teamed with fellow Aussie AJ Ogilvy at Valenica in both the Spanish ACB and the EuroCup competition, the second-tier competition to Euroleague. Newley averaged 4.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in EuroCup games while taking Valenica to a semi-final finish.
NBA Radar: Newley despite having the athletic game NBA scouts drool over has always lacked a consistent jump shot. After being drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2007 he hasn’t really been of interest to them since 2009, the last time he played in their summer league team.
Motivation: The NBA is still a remote chance for Newley if he could somehow find a consistent jumper only side the Spanish coastline this year. With that its more than likely more than one NBA team would give the man a chance. Gran Canaria is a lower ranked team than Newley’s former club Valencia in both the ACB and the EuroCup, but the opportunity to have a larger role with more minutes should be a huge boost for Newley. Although his NBA window is practically closed, his new team role and the beautiful weather across the Canary Island’s should result in Brad having one of his best season’s in Europe to date.
Matt Nielsen (BC Khimki – Russia)
The Captain of our Boomers squad Matt Nielsen returns to BC Khimki to defend their 2012 EuroCup Championship. Although he may have played his last international game for Australia, his basketball experience and leadership make him a valuable commodity in Europe still today.
Last Season: He only averaged 3 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in BC Khimki’s EuroCup games last season, but the fact he also played 15 minutes a game shows that what Nielsen brings to the court doesn’t show up in most box scores.
NBA Radar: Nielsen went undrafted in 2000 and played for the Denver Nuggets summer league team in 2004 but retirement seems a lot more likely than an NBA spot this stage in his career.
Motivation: Nielsen won his second EuroCup championship this year. Add that to his two NBL championships with Sydney and you see the man is a bonafide winner. Nielsen is one of the rare breed who does not require extra motivation, his heart is on the line every time he laces up his shoes.
Ater Majok (BK SPU Nitra – Slovakia)
Ater Majok is a bit of an unknown to Australian basketball fans and hasn’t been seen since his short stint in the NBL with the Perth Wildcats and Gold Coast Blaze. He currently hasn’t signed for 2012/13 and we hear he is currently trialling with Maccabi Tel Aviv (Isreal) but is this the year when he develops from a “basketball project” to an elite international basketball player?
Last Season: BK SPU Nitra play in the EuroChallenge, the third-tier European basketball competition. Majok averaged a respectable 11 points and 9 rebounds in that competition, including a 17 point, 12 rebound effort in the team’s elimination game against Spanish team Fuenlabrada which featured former NBL MVP Kirk Penney.
NBA Radar: Despite not making the Boomers Olympic team Ater Majok is still an interesting prospect to some NBA teams due to his obvious raw potential. He played for the LA Lakers summer league team in 2012 and produced 2 points and 4 rebounds a game.
Motivation: NBA interest generally involves the words “potential” and “upside” unfortunately these words are rarely used with players 25 years and over, something Majok will be this year. His NBA window is closing and Majok needs to have big numbers in what is a lowly ranked European team in order to turn NBA heads… what more motivation should he need?
Julian Khazzouh (Asseco Prokom Gdynia – Poland)
Julian Khazzouh has been the best big man in our country for the past two years now he he takes his game to the south coast of the Baltic Sea to play for Asseco Prokom.
Last Season: Despite the Kings having a poor year Khazzouh delivered great numbers for Sydney, carrying them alone it seemed for the first half of the season with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists per game. A performance good enough to earn him All-NBL First Team and MVP considerations.
NBA Radar: In December every NBL fan was hoping Khazzouh would make the Golden State Warriors roster for the NBA season. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and even though Khazzouh seemed despondent in the remainder of his NBL season, the LA Lakers had enough interest to invite him to their summer league roster this year where he averaged 8 points and 4 rebounds. This included a dominant 16 point, 6 rebound effort against the Clippers.
Motivation: Khazzouh has some reasonable NBA buzz around him. A season banging bodies with legitimate international big men in the Euroleague competition could be exactly what NBA scouts want to see from Khazzouh. He was also so close to making it onto the Boomers Olympic roster, but Australia’s depth at his position resulted in another missed opportunity for Khazzouh. After 12 months of “almost made it’s” there’s plenty of reason for the big man to produce. This is his chance to go from respectable power forward to one of international basketball’s best big men.
Aron Baynes (KK Union Olimpija- Slovenia)
Another man who had a big impact in London due to the absence of Andrew Bogut. Aron Baynes has made a huge jump this year from Ikaros Kallitheas B.C. who are confined to the Greek League to being the starting big man at KK Union Olimpija, a legitimate Euroleague team.
Last Season: Baynes dominated the competition in Greece at times last year, his 27 point, 13 rebound against Aris BC comes to mind. However it seemed he didn’t feel challenged at times and his 14 points and 9 rebounds averages reflect that. Making the big jump into the Euroleague and being amoung the world’s best players and coaches should only result in some huge developments in Baynes game.
NBA Radar: He was widely scouted by NBA teams during his college career at Washington State and played reasonable minutes for the LA Lakers summer league team in 2009. Baynes no doubt fell off the NBA radar while in Greece, but perhaps his 8 points per game at 66% during the Olympics and a great year in Slovenia could remind NBA GM’s what the big man from Cairns is capable of.
Motivation: No matter how many alley-oop dunks he threw down in London, his raw basketball IQ was always obvious on the Boomers squad. This season in Poland, being amoungst the best team mates, opponents and coaches you can have outside the NBA should take Baynes game to a whole new level. The motivation to learn and soak up everything he sees and hears over the next 12 months must be on his agenda.
Aleks Maric (PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban – Russia)
Aleks Maric’s game has fallen since being named the center on the 2010 All-Euroleague first team. At that time he was arguably the best big man not in the NBA. He takes his game from Greece to Russia this season, perhaps hoping to rekindle the play he delivered during his time with Partizan Belgrade.
Last Season: Last year at Panathinakos Maric averaged only 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds. A far cry from his All-Euroleague season when he averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds a game. He has rapidly descended down the list of international big man and as a result now finds himself on a team in Europe’s second-tier competition, the EuroCup.
NBA Radar: During his college career in Nebraska Aleks Maric was one of those players who was unlucky not to hear his name called. Pre-season stints with Portland, San Antonio and Indiana in 2008 shows that numerous teams are aware of the big man. Even this year he was given trials with Houston, LA Clippers, LA Lakers and Golden State, so there is clearly still interest in arguably Australia’s second best big man.
Motivation: His 3 points and 3 rebounds a game for the Boomers was not what Australian Basketball fans, Brett Brown nor probably Aleks Maric himself expected to produce at the Olympics. He has the size, experience and ability to tear apart the VTB Basketball League and EuroCup for Lokomotiv Kuban. One good season could be all Maric needs to become Australia’s next NBA player. It just needs to be this season.
David Barlow (UCAM Murcia – Spain)
Barlow has been a major component of the Australia Boomers program since 2006 but in London Brett Brown chose to keep him on the bench during close games against Brazil and Russia. This will be Barlow’s second season for UCAM Murcia, but has he had his last chance for the Boomers?.
Last Season: Barlow averaged 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds through 34 games in the Spanish ACB, however with UCAM Murcia not ranked high enough to play in Euroleague, EuroCup or EuroChallenge competition this gives him some inflated numbers compared to other members of the Boomers. Barlow will be hoping to lead Murcia to a better finish to the season than last year’s 15th place in the Spanish League.
NBA Radar: If he’s not playing every game for our Boomers, he’s not on any NBA team’s radar.
Motivation: His role in the national team seems under review after his 1.2ppg in the Olympic tournament. Barlow needs to really focus on his game in Europe if he hopes to be a part of the Boomers plans for the 2014 World Championships