By Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
Welcome back! We’ve made it three weeks in a row of notes and now it will be a mix of European, International and the newly started NCAA season musings. Enjoy.
First Edition of Notes from the Trapezoid: Eredivisie League, Early Overreactions, and Mega Vizura
Second Edition: Alba Berlin, Early Season Injuries, Westermann and Micic
Note #1: European Rookie Big Men in the NCAA
This is one of the strongest European classes ever coming into the NCAA. Here’s a look at two of the most highly touted of the freshmen big men who have been playing very well to kick off the season. And also a look at some more European centers to follow during their Freshman year. We’ll be sure to look at the wings and point guards who came across the Atlantic in future notes.
Jakob Poeltl (Utah) - The Austrian center has started out his college career with a boom. Going into double figure rebounds in both of his first games and recording seven blocks against a very good team in San Diego State this week.
Poeltl has some decent girth for his age but will need to continue to put on muscle like most freshman. He already has a great feel for the game defensively and is pretty mobile for a 19-year-old seven-footer. He has solid footwork, does a good job screening, and knows how to dive right to the rim. He’s been strong and smart enough to play right away. Senior Dallin Bachynski (Jordan’s brother) was playing 18 minutes a game last season but Poeltl has played so well to start the season that Bachynski has only played 16 minutes total in the first two games.
Damontas Sabonis (Gonzaga) - There are high expectations not only for Sabonis but for the whole Gonzaga team this year. In his first few games Sabonis has already become a key contributor to the Zags. Gonzaga is playing a three big rotation including Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer. Sabonis comes off the bench playing either power forward or center. He played 20 minutes in both of the first two games and 19 minutes in the Zags blowout win over St. Joseph’s.
Sabonis has made an immediate impact on the boards. You can see he already has an advanced knowledge ahead of most college bigs in terms of where to place himself on the floor for spacing and rebounds, to go along with his superb activity. He really runs the floor well and has been working hard to create space for a post-up on offense. And once he gets an entry pass Sabonis has shown off his crafty footwork and ability to make plays with his back to the hoop.
Coming from Europe Sabonis is already ahead of most American bigs in his ability to play in a ball screen offense, which Gonzaga is heavy on. Sabonis has had a couple monster slams off ball screen rolls and has had no problem setting multiple screens in a possession. One slight worry is getting into foul trouble but that’s a problem most freshmen have and Sabonis already looks very comfy in Spokane.
Scroll to the 2:55 mark if you want see the beautiful Sabonis screen and slam.
Other Euro Freshman bigs to follow this season: Dusan Ristic (Arizona), Matz Stockman (Louisville), Michal Cekovsky (Maryland), Kerem Kanter (Wisconsin-Green Bay), Ruben Guerrero (South Florida), Georgios Tsalmpouris (Iowa State), Gyorgy Goloman (UCLA).
Note #2: A Landing Spot for Bo
Partizan? Valencia? Milano? Somewhere in Turkey? China? NBA? The Moon?
Nope, the Macedonian blur signed up for one-month for Bayern Munich.
There have been rumors all summer and fall about where Bo McCalebb might land. But the fit for Bayern could be great for both parties.
Bayern is in desperate need of an explosive offensive force. Last season Malcolm Delaney was an electric offensive player and while new signees Anton Gavel and Vasa Micic have shown flashes of effectiveness, neither has the burst in their game that Delaney possessed. Bo, as we all know, has that.
With Gavel out for the next four to six weeks, Djedovic banged up, it remains to be seen if Bo will stay in Munich for longer than the stretch run to make the Euroleague Top 16. But if McCalebb is fit, ready to go, and works well with Coach Pesic, this could be a key piece Bayern has been missing.
Note #3: Showdown Saturday in Belgium
At one point Spirou Chareloi was the King of the Ethias (now Scooore) League and then a couple years ago the torch was passed to Oostende. And the Fighting Van Den Spiegel’s have gone on win the last three league crowns and are still currently atop the Flemish mountain. But they also have a bonafide contender attempting to summit that mountain: Okapi Aalstar.
Aalst is 7-0 in the league (Oostende is 6-1) and have been playing at a blisteringly high pace. Aalst is averaging 96.6 points per a game and sprinting the ball up and down the floor. But Aalst’s emergence is not necessarily a new phenomenon. They made the Belgian Finals last year and took Oostende to a deciding fifth game.
Perimeter gunman Rotnei Clarke was leading the team in scoring at 22.2 points per a game until he was recently sidelined with an injury. No problem, Aalst just signed up one of their former players Jason Clark who was plugged right into Clarke’s spot and has been just as effective.
The breakout player on the team is rookie Taylor Braun who was Mr. Everything last year at North Dakota State and has continued his versatile ways in Belgium. Braun is averaging 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. He’s flourishing with his ability to make a lot of plays on the fast break and play multiple roles offensively. And he’s even being compared to a recent Aalst legend.
With Aalst traveling to Oostende on Saturday, we get to see the undefeated new challengers to the throne try to prove that they really are a threat to the current back to back to back league champ Oostende.