Today, then, a brief look at the 13 Europeans participating in today’s first round action.
Headlining the Europack is definitely Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor. Hailing from Norrkoping, Sweden, the junior averaged a fantastic line of 15.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 stocks (steals plus blocks, stat category courtesy Bill Simmons) – all career highs excepting the boards – while representing the centerpiece of the Commodores’ offense after packing 25 pounds on during the offseason.
Worse yet for Vandy opponents Richmond: Local media covering the SEC tournament report that Taylor has found “a part of his game that has been missing at times this season,” namely aggressiveness – to the tune of 20.66 points per in three tourney games on 19-of-27 shooting on twos. “I think before [the SEC Tournament], I kind of faded in and out of aggressiveness,” the Swede was quoted as saying. Said aggression would prove useful in the bigger tournament: Vanderbilt has run up a record of 17-3 this season when Taylor scores 15 points or more.
Istanbul’s Deniz Kilicli had an admirable sophomore year with West Virginia University in 2010-11: The 6’9” 270-pounder (2.06 meters, 123 kilograms) played big this season, getting quintuple the playing time over 2009-10 and rewarding the Mountaineers with 4.1 rebounds per 16.3 minutes.
Kilicli’s ball-handling is improving, but the young Turk has seen a slight curtailing of minutes during the regular season’s conclusion and conference tournament. Look for Kilicli to be grabbing boards in relief at the midway points of halves. And look for him to improve further in 2011 as part of the incipient Turkish invasion of the NBA destined to be in full swing by mid-decade.
Certainly the most international squad in the NCAA tournament is Gonzaga University. Bringing three Europeans and three Canadians (Canada is still considered a foreign country over there, isn’t it?), the 2010-11 edition of the Bulldogs bring a mix of individual playing styles and an offense designed around nearly always finding the open jumpshot – and to good effect, with the team’s 47.9% overall shooting 10th best among American university teams.
BiE will be looking at Germany’s Elias Harris, who will most assuredly be counted upon to do some blue-collar work against St. John’s today. Though 2010-11 Gonzaga starts quite a small lineup – at 6’7” and 245 pounds (2.01m and 111kg), Harris is the second-biggest guy in the starting lineup – the Bulldogs have gotten quite a good draw in similarly undersized Red Storm and Harris could put on a rebounding clinic today in an upset…
The Zags are also bringing the two freshman Mathises: Monninghoff of Ibbenburen, Germany (who went for 4.4 points, 1.5 boards in 13.6 minutes per game); and Keita of Thionville, France (2.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 9.8 mpg).And BiE has to give a shout out to homeboy Greg Somogyi, the sole non-Californian on the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos’ active roster. The huge Budapest native (ESPN.com has him listed at 7’3”, 242 pounds or 2.21m, 110kg) could actually be on his way to becoming the next Kornél Dávid. Or something.
As the only true center on the team, Somogyi improved his personal stats for the third consecutive season with UCSB despite only getting about 16 minutes per game in a speedy Gaucho offense. In today’s opponent, the University of Florida Gators, the massive Magyar faces the challenge of his basketball career thus far: What can he do to stop the three-heading rebounding monster of seniors Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus?
Then there’s Enes Kanter with the University of Kentucky…
Other European ballers playing (though most with limited minutes, it seems) in today’s games include Catalin Baciu (hometown Cluj-Napoca, Romania) of Clemson; Sasa Borovnjak (Belgrade, Serbia) of Penn State; Mehdi Cheriet (Tarare, France) of San Diego State; Anton Larson (Copenhagen, Denmark) of Old Dominion; Niels Giffey (Berlin, Germany) and the appropriately-monikered Ensoch Wolf (Göttingen, Germany) of U. Conn; and Will Yeguete (Bordeaux, France) of Florida.