With semesters coming to a close in European universities (well at least here in BallinEurope’s Budapest headquarters), BiE’s mind turned to the U.S. college game and specifically the European ballers playing in the NCAA. Below therefore runs some recent news – and video clips, natch – on 12 players plying their wares in the ‘States this season; starring Elias Harris, Denis Kilicli, Patrick Heckmann, Brice Massamba and more.
• Patrik Auda, Czech Republic; Seton Hall. In his sophomore year, Auda has earned the starting lineup for the 7-1 Pirates to produce an impressive 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game; in early December, Auda went for a career-high 17 points – all in the second half – against Auburn.
Auda has fit perfectly with the Seton Hall speedy offense this season, though it must be said that the Czech and his teammates haven’t met a true test against an NCAA superpower yet: That’ll come on December 28 when visiting current no. 1 Syracuse.
• Chris Czerapowicz, Sweden; Davidson College. Coming off the bench for the Wildcats, Czerapowicz is nevertheless seeing nearly 23 minutes per game; the Swede’s top performance thus far in 2011-12 was in the 21-point blowout of Furman on December 3, when he went for 13 points and four rebounds in 29 minutes.
• Olek Czyz, Poland; University of Nevada. Czyz’ minutes are down slightly this season for the Wolf Pack, but this may be reflective of his shooting numbers, likewise slightly down. Czyz has been noted as a key player when Nevada goes to crunch time in 2011-12 and BiE realizes it is early, but couldn’t that 47.9% success rate be improved a bit, particularly since the Pole’s rebounding numbers are actually up despite the five fewer minutes per game – clearly still a presence in the paint, Czyz needs to “throw it down, big man” more frequently.
• Tomasz Gielo, Poland, Liberty University. Gielo has yet to suit up in his freshman year after suffering a dislocated elbow in an October practice.
• Elias Harris, Germany; Gonzaga University. The guy who esteemed experts such as Draft Express have as a future NBA draft pick is living up to expectations with the Bulldogs, nicely filling the gap in the Gonzaga offense created by the departure of Matt Bouldin. How closely is Harris being scoped these days? Notes CBS Sports: “Elias Harris is averaging 1.007 points per possession, which is too low for what he should be putting up. Harris has averaged 1.13 the past two years.”
Nevertheless, Harris is in better shape as a junior; has posted a stat line of 12.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks per game through seven; and looked pretty damn good against Notre Dame on December 1.
• Patrick Heckmann, Germany; Boston College. In a woeful year for the 3-7 Eagles, “Heckmann is their best player.” As a freshman, the German is already seeing 26.3 minutes per game and, while struggling a bit with turnovers – albeit in a porous offense – at 3.2 per, Heckmann is sure to become a leader in his stint at BC. Until he declares himself eligible for the NBA Draft, BiE supposes.
• Denis Kilicli, Turkey; West Virginia University. The Turkish invasion of American basketball continues with Kilicli, who scarily appears to be improving day by day with the Mountaineers as he becomes known for the monster dunk. He’s gone for double-digit scoring in each of WVU’s eight games. In the past five, he’s a hot 26-of-44 from the floor, culminating in a huge 18-point, eight-rebound, five-assist show in a win against University of Miami on Sunday.
• Jakub Kusmieruk, Poland; Idaho State University. At 7’4” with some skills, Kusmieruk has been scouted by top-level scopers in the ‘States since at least 2006, when he was 16 years old. Now 21, a guy seemingly destined to play NBA ball isn’t exactly burning up the college ranks at Idaho State, even recently getting temporarily replaced in the starting lineup.
• Alex Len, Ukraine; University of Maryland. Alex freed! With the NCAA’s penalty served, “the Terrapins will leave this stretch a better and deeper team than they found it, as Alex Len will have served his ten-game suspension and be available against Albany (cupcake no. 3 [in a] six-game stretch).”
• Karam Mashour, Israel; UNLV. Let’s hope this is a sophomore slump: Mashour’s playing time has dwindled to nothing on a deep Running Rebels bench as the Israeli has recently often been labeled as “struggling.”
• Brice Massamba, Sweden; UNLV. In his senior year at UNLV, Running Rebel fans may be witnessing the finalization of Massamba as a complete player. The Swede is playing an even 20 minutes per game through the 9-2 UNLV’s season and, though consistency is sometimes still a problem, Massamba is now seeing plays run through him, recognizing their big man’s invaluable presence in the paint.
Summed up Las Vegas Sun writer Ray Brewer after the Rebels’ November 22 win: “Massamba had one of the strongest [individual performances] for UNLV, leading the Rebels with nine rebounds and scoring 10 points. He was the difference-maker Cal Poly wasn’t expecting, having arguably the best game in his four-year UNLV career. The offense at times went through Massamba in the post, especially with Cal Poly so focused on taking away the perimeter…”
• Kyryl Natyazhko, Ukraine; University of Arizona. Unfortunately, the verdict on Natyazhko hasn’t been exceedingly positive lately. In late November, Wildcats coach Sean Miller told local media that Natyazhko would “have to improve and get the job done in his third year with us, or we’re going to have to move in another direction. We’re not looking for a double-digit scorer as much as ‘do your job, rebound the ball, play great post defense, bring energy, make a 15-footer.’ He’s struggled out of the gate.”
Indeed, Miller made good on his promise. Natyazhko took a DNP in early December in a game against Northern Arizona, while last night the Wildcats ran a short eight-man rotation which didn’t really include the Ukrainian at all. Natyazhko’s future would appear to be uncertain…