Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Euroleague Top 16 Round-Up

Three former Terps playing in Europe have made it to the Euroleauge Championship round of 16. And in the first round-robin game in this round, Drew Nicholas (1999-2003) and Efes Pilsen (of Istanbul, Turkey) defeated Sarunas Jasikevicius (1994-98) and Panathinaikos (of Athens, Greece). Here's the game report from the Euroleague website:

Efes Pilsen got the Top 16 off to exciting fashion in Group D by beating defending Euroleague Basketball champion Panathinaikos 74-64 on Wednesday night at the Abdi Ipecki Sports Hall in Istanbul, Turkey. Drew Nicholas scored 23 of his 29 points – equaling his career-best – in the first half as Efes took a 46-35 halftime lead and the hosts only added to that in the second half. [...]

Mike Batiste and Sarunas Jasikevicius led Panathinaikos with 12 points apiece and Vassilis Spanoulis added 10. The Greens led 8-16 early, but Nicholas fired in three consecutive three-pointers to get Efes back.

(Updated 3/2) In this video, you'll see Drew Nicholas (#4 in blue) scoring at will, and Sarunas Jasikevicius (#19 in white) scoring a few as well:

Drew Nicholas gave this interview after the big win (which the Terrapin Nation blog alerted me to).

Efes lost their next game in OT, despite 12 points and 7 rebounds from Nicholas. Panathinaikos won their next game, though Sarunas scored only 4 points on back-to-back jumpers at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. The two teams are now tied for 2nd place in Group D. Drew Nicholas is making news this week, as he and other American players are refusing to travel to Serbia for their next scheduled game because of security concerns over anti-American sentiment resulting from Kosovo's recently declared independence.

Meanwhile over in Group F, Terence Morris (1997-2001) and Maccabi Elite (of Tel Aviv, Israel) are also in a 2nd place tie, with a 1-1 record. They won their first game, as Morris scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. But Maccabi lost their second game, with Morris getting 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Joe Smith and Juan Dixon Traded (not for each other)

Today was the NBA trade deadline, and Joe Smith (1993-95) and Juan Dixon (1998-2002) were among the players that switched teams. Earlier in the day, I saw a rumor that they could be traded for each other, which would have been cool, but it didn't happen.

In a complex 11-player, 3-team deal that I can't explain any clearer than does, Joe Smith was traded from Chicago to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland's press release says this about Smith:
Smith, a 12-year veteran, has played in 50 games (35 starts) for Chicago this season and has averaged 11.2 points on .466 shooting and 5.3 rebounds in 22.9 minutes per game. In 866 games (611 starts), he has career averages of 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists.

Meanwhile, a little bit to the north, Juan Dixon was dealt from Toronto to the Detroit Pistons. From the aforelinked press release:
Dixon teamed with Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox to lead Maryland to the 2002 NCAA title and was a first-round draft choice of the Washington Wizards that season. He played three years with the Wizards before signing with Portland as a free agent prior to the 2005-06 season. In his first year with the Trail Blazers, Dixon had his best NBA season, averaging 12.3 points a game.

This makes the second straight year Dixon was dealt at the trade deadline, being sent to Toronto last Feb. 22 in a deal for Fred Jones and cash.

Steve Francis Having Season-Ending Surgery

Steve Francis's (1998-99) season with the Houston Rockets is officially over (well, it was announced two weeks ago, but I just noticed today). He's having season-ending surgery:
Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis, who has been sidelined since late December with what was originally diagnosed as bi- lateral quadriceps tendonitis, will reportedly undergo season-ending surgery.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is expected to make an official announcement concerning Francis' status Thursday. Francis visited a specialist in Colorado last week, and a tear in the quadriceps that would require surgical repair was discovered.

The Houston Chronicle says Francis hopes to be back next season.

Ekene Ibekwe Not Playing In Puerto Rico

I don't know where Ekene Ibekwe (2003-07) is at the moment, but I know he's not playing in Puerto Rico. Gigantes de Carolina had brought him in for a try-out, but decided they needed another guard in the line-up instead. He apparently appeared in a few exhibition games (translation) for them before they decided not to sign him. Presumably, this means he has left his former team, Gilboa/Afula of Israel.

In vaguely related, yet non-Terps news, Ikene's younger sister, Ify Ibekwe, is a freshman playing for the University of Arizona:
Whenever Arizona freshman Ify Ibekwe steps on the court, she evokes inspiration from her siblings.

Ibekwe comes from a basketball family. Her older brother Onyekachi played at Oklahoma State and Long Beach State. Another brother, Ekene, played at Maryland. Her older sister Chinyere plays for UCLA.

Four kids from one family all playing Division I basketball is sort of astounding.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Laron Profit in Argentina

Laron Profit (1995-99) has signed to play (translation) with Club Deportivo Libertad of Sunchales, Argentina.

And now, our recurring feature: Bad Google Translations of Foreign Press Releases!
In the afternoon yesterday, arrived in our city, Laron Profit, the second foreign stock Professional Basketball Club Deportivo Liberty. The outsider was present on the premises aurinegras to maintain a first contact with the technical staff and teammates.

Laron Profit from the morning practice today will be at the orders of the TD, Julio Lamas, to ensure the speedy adaptation to the style of game intended.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Andre Collins in Italy's 2nd Division

I always forget about Andre Collins (2001-04). Since he transferred to Loyola midway through his Junior season, he's not on my mental list of players to check up on. I was reminded of him today by, so I went looking for him.

It turns out Collins is playing for Carife Ferrara (translation) in Italy's 2nd division pro league ("Liga 2"), where he's teammates with Harold Jamison (formerly of Clemson). I don't see any player profile pages there, but he's listed on the 07-08 and the 06-07 rosters, so he was there last year too.

If you get to their website today, he's on their front page in the news section. The news story says that he'll be taking questions from school kids, and the audio of the interview will be posted tomorrow (Feb. 19) on Italian news portal

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chris Wilcox's Game Evolving and Improving

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an article you should read this week about how Chris Wilcox (2000-02) is improving his game by finding the shooter's touch to make short jumpers and lay-ups instead of trying to dunk against larger defenders. Here's an excerpt:
Chris Wilcox is the Sonics' best dunker since Shawn Kemp, but he is slowly developing a touch near the basket that could catapult him among the game's elite forwards.

The difference between Wilcox's midseason resurrection and others in the past appears to be a mastery of the short game that has denied him before.

Against the Phoenix Suns on Friday, Wilcox was pushed slightly away from the rim by strongman Amare Stoudemire, considered a solid defender, especially against power forwards. Wilcox countered by hitting short jumpers or driving for layups. [...]

Because he does not match up weight-wise against some of the league's bulkier power forwards -- such as Utah's 260-pound Carlos Boozer -- the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Wilcox has to rely more on court quickness and height to score buckets. What Wilcox has lacked over the past few years with the Sonics is a soft touch on layups and the ability to can the short jumper when he's shoved away from the basket.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lonny Baxter Goes Greek

Lonny Baxter (1998-2002) is playing in Greece, signing with Panionios On Telecoms in Athens, Greece. This is his second stint in Greece: he played there 3 years ago with Panathinaikos. Here is a press release about his signing (translation), and about his first practice (translation).

Here is his player profile (translation). The press release and profile say he was playing in Spain earlier this season.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mike Jones Signs in Cyrpus

Mike Jones (2003-07) has joined Aspis APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus. Eurobasket has the news, but I don't like to link to them because their news links aren't permanent (scroll halfway down the page to look for Mike's picture under the headline of "Market News". If you're reading this several months after I wrote the article, this news item is likely gone forever).

The only more permanently-linkable mention of it I could find is this article, where it mentions that Jones scored 19 points for his new team in his first game (also note the bottom of that article, where Ryan Randle scored 12 points for the losing team, Proteas EKA AEL). The club's website only seems to have info about their soccer team and I can't get Google translate to work because of all the flash. Other places I have found which claim to link to APOEL's basketball team all turn out to be broken links.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Terence Morris is Euroleague Player of the Month

Terence Morris (1997-2001), still playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, earned Euroleague Player of the Month honors for the month of January:
Maccabi started January fourth in its group, just a victory ahead of fifth place. Five games later, it ended the month 5-0, tied for first place and for the third-most wins in the entire regular season. Morris had everything to do with that turnaround, averaging a double-double of 13 points and 11.2 rebounds while being the iron man for Maccabi. He set the tone for January by hauling down 19 rebounds in 40 minutes of a victory that broke Maccabi's tie for fourth place. He proceeded to show great versatility - 5 assists one game, 3 blocks another, 3 steals another, 54% three-point shooting - in doing what his team needed to win. The result was Maccabi soaring among the main challengers headed into the Top 16 and a very deserving Terence Morris being chosen as Euroleague Basketball's MVP for January.

Here's his Euroleague highlight reel:

East Coast Bias (one of my recommended blogs from the sidebar on your right) beat me to finding this excellent feature article about Terence Morris published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Here's an excerpt; be sure to click the link to read the full story:
Maccabi Tel Aviv would not be in a position to make a run at another Euroleague title if it weren't for Terence Morris' efforts before Zvika Sherf took over as coach. In just one short year, the 29-year-old, 2.06-meter Morris has gone from sitting on Hapoel Jerusalem's bench to being an indispensable member of Maccabi.

Morris, who earlier in his career was known for inconsistency, was a steady presence for Maccabi in its toughest times during Nikola Vujcic's lengthy absence. Seemingly week after week, Morris always came through when it was really needed, with either the big block, rebound or basket.

Morris' highlight came during the sixth week of the Euroleague campaign, when his rebound and basket with four seconds remaining gave Maccabi a 82-81 victory over Milano and its first road win of the year. Since then, Morris has been getting major minutes and has become a permanent fixture in the opening lineup.