By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
Let me ask that again: did you think Kyle Singler would be this good? This quickly?
After winning an NCAA Championship as a junior, Singler was almost a shoo-in to be a first round pick. Instead, he decided to come back for one more year as a Blue Devil, and plenty of experts tabbed him as pre-season pick as national player of the year.
It didn’t all go according to plan.
His numbers stagnated, Arizona upset Duke in the Sweet 16 and Singler’s draft stock took a hit. He slipped to the Detroit Pistons with the third pick in the second round (33rd overall), and with the lockout cloud hanging over his head, he decided to come ply his trade for Lucentum Alicante in the Spanish League.
Four games deep, I think the Spanish club is pretty happy about his decision:
Game One : 23 points in a win versus Euroleague team Bilbao Basket
Game Two: 12 points in a loss to playoff contender Cajasol Sevilla
Game Three: 24 points in a win versus last year’s Euroleague playoff team, Valencia Basket
Game Four: 17 points in a win versus Vallodolid
Singler has led a historically mediocre Alicante team to a 3-1 record and is 4th in the Spanish League in scoring at 19 points a game. Alicante hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005, and hasn’t had an All-ACB First Teamer since Lou Roe made the team that year.
As a rookie in the Spanish League, this is quite the accomplishment, and means that NBA or not, Singler’s play will surely open up new doors in Europe. Even if the lockout ends, Singler doesn’t have a guaranteed deal with the Detroit Pistons, so he could stay in Spain beyond the end of the work stoppage (whenever that is). Getting Alicante into the Spanish League Playoffs could pay dividends in the form of a hefty pay day from a major European club or a generous extension from Alicante.
One, two, or maybe even three years of high level European ball could turn Singler into a much better player, and once he decides he’s good and ready to return back to American soil, there will be a waiting list of teams looking to pay him. (If he stays over in Europe long enough he’ll become a restricted free agent with the Pistons).
But on second thought, should we really be surprised?
After all, he’s got a game that translates well to Europe: he has excelled at both forward positions, has good range on his jumper, rebounds the ball and is an above average passer. On top of that, he played under a coach, Mike Krzyzewski, who preached discipline and defensive intensity, and whose system has produced successful European hoopers like Martynas Pocius (Real Madrid), Daniel Ewing (Azovmash) and of course, the recently retired Trajan Langdon (CSKA Moscow).
And if Alicante ever needs to settle things on the H-O-R-S-E court, they’ve got the upper hand:
Check out a quick highlight video from Singler’s time in Spain so far too: