BC Donetsk was the surprise the package of last years Eurocup campaign. Despite much heavier rosters, the Ukrainians managed to advance until quarter final playoffs. However, success comes with a price. The next summer, the team lost many of its important components. Coach Sasa Obradovic left for ALBA Berlin after two years in the Donbass Basin, took starting point guard Vule Avdalovic with him. Ukrainian national team center Viacheslav Kravtsov decided to try his chance in NBA, Detroit Pistons.
Coach Vlada Jovanovic came from Partizan as a replacement to Obradovic along with veteran guard Doron Perkins, ex Real Madrid and Bilbao center Dor Fischer and Bulgarian forward Kaloyan Ivanov as well as Euro campaign veteran and ex NBA player Darius Songaila. One cannot say the season started well regarding the expectations that have been built upon the campaign of last season. Euroleague ticket was lost in the first elimination against Le Mans, VTB League was tough and it was hard to win a game for Donetsk. Successive losses at domestic league brought the club administration into cross roads. Should they go with the coach?
Jovanovic left with his assistants in the end of October and his replacement was from Spain, Josep Maria Josep Berrocal (agency: Stanislav Ryzhov ).
Familiar to Ukraine from his 1 year stint in Budivelnik Kiev, Josep Maria Berrocal (agency: Stanislav Ryzhov ) came back to East with new challenges on his mind. However, it was not a great start for him and the team. He broke his fingers as a result of what he calls an accident and more than that, accidents that Donetsk have been suffered were more severe than that. Doron Perkins, who was playing with an injury already was sidelined for nearly one month. Josep Berrocal (agency: Stanislav Ryzhov ) was left without his best point guard immediately. Three consecutive losses afterwards.
However, against Galatasaray last week, Donetsk showed signs of improvement. They got the lead in the first quarter against a team which is undefeated yet, this season. Despite the problems they have faced like their best defender Dmitry Gliebov was also injured and they had to cope with early foul problems, The Tigers fought for the match until the last minute.
This year, Joan Plaza, the Spanish that gave hope to Zalgris has been the popular topic but we sat and talk with another Spanish coach, Josep Maria Josep Berrocal (agency: Stanislav Ryzhov ) who works on the Eastern part of the ex Iron Curtain.
UK. Mr. Josep Berrocal (agency: Stanislav Ryzhov ), congratulations for the last game against Galatasaray. I think it was the best game of the year?
JB: Yes, I think it is. Similar result but still, it was our best game. Both offensively and defensively, we played more like a team despite we could not use our important players. We had to use players that could not take minutes in Eurocup until last game. By now, we are close to our level but we need more time to show our real level.
UK. What was the difference compared to other games?
JB. Basically we improved our defense. We didnt score easy but the important point is that the team understood when things go wrong, we can recover with better defense and rotations. It was important for team to understand this. It was revealed that when we play like a team, we can give win games.
UK. I would like to congratulate you because Galatasaray has one of the best rosters of Eurocup. Do you think they are a Euroleague team?
JB. They really have a good roster. (Despite injury) Domercant is a very important player for them; he is may be one of the best of his kind in Eurocup. Of course the other players are very good, Ndong, Macvan. As a team, they are one of the best in Eurocup and if you are one of the best in Eurocup that makes you a Euroleague team. Theн have the names.
UK. So Galatasaray is one of your favorites for the title?
I think so. I think Galatasaray and Kuban will be so close in this group. These two teams are among the best teams of Eurocup.
UK. You lost first two games, you have really good hope now?
JB. For us, it is more difficult now; we lost two games but still, we can advance. First of all, our aim to win our games. We have two important games against Sopot and right now advancing is up to us. We did not lose the games with big differences ( Kuban 3, Galatasaray 4) therefore we have a chance. I admit that it is not easy to advance to LAST16, right now it depends on us.
UK. Do you think playing in VTB, Ukraine and Eurocup is a heavy workload?
JB. It is tough. However, I signed the contract, knew what I am coming for. Neither the players nor me cannot change the schedule. I dont have the option to think too much, I just need to find solutions.
UK. Doron Perkins was sidelined for some time. You want some new players to improve the roster?
JB. Every team that has an aim always seeks for an opportunity to strengthen the roster. I am sure the club is looking on the market to improve our team. Right now, there are no names but may be in the future there can be. We dont have much time to improve our game in the practice, there is no time for that so good way to improve is find a new player. You cannot do one move so fast. If you add someone, you must be sure that he will not disturb the team balance and really can contribute.
UK. You said that the team has difficulty to score. What do you have in your mind as a prescription?
JB. First, I need to know my players better. I need to see them on court more so that I can use them more effectively according to their relative strength. I think we have much power inside and we are below that potential. We also need to improve on finding easy points. We started to play in offense more like a team, with more discipline. Now we need more time to build on that.
UK. Two years ago, you were coaching Budivelnik Kiev. You had a magnificent season, you were the champions and reached quarter final playoffs in Eurocup where you lost against future finalists Cajasol. Then you left Ukraine for Spain Second Division, Menorca. What happened?
JB. I want titles and I did not feel like I am in the place to work that I want. After all those years in Barca, I went to Ukraine to try something different. We found the balance as a team but there were many-many problems. Budivelnik is a good club, Kiev is nice, I have really good friends and memories there but I think as a coach, I should not worry about things other than basketball, I need to have only basketball in my mind. For me, basketball is everywhere so it doesnt matter whether it is Euroleague, Ukraine or Spanish Second Division. We did our job there, we promote.
UK. When we take a look at your career, it seems marvelous. In the 90s, you were at Badalona, Joventut and in the 2000s, you were with Barcelona. You had a chance to work with coaches like Dusco Ivanovic or Svetislav Pesic and Xavi Pascual. Are you disappointed not to be promoted as a head coach?
JB. No. No, No. For me, I was very-very happy in my Barca years. We were all working like a team during all those season where we played nearly 85 games. Not only there was one great coach but there was a staff working on different jobs. We had Euroleague Final Fours, we were the champions in 2003. How many coaches can win Euroleague in their life?
UK. Did any Spanish club approached to you to hire as a head coach? Did you ever think about it?
JB. As an assistant coach, yes. As the head coach, there were some conversations but at the end it did not happen. We have a really good league and I like to be a part of it. No, I dont feel like it has been unfair to be. Last season it was close, we were promoted to ACB but unfortunately we lost our sponsor, therefore it did not happen. We did it with only one American player, the rest was all Spanish. That was a really good motivation to show that teams can promote with one US player only. This means, I won the chance to be in ACB. Alicante called me to lead them in ACB but they also decided to go on with Second Division. Someday, it will finally happen. It is just Donetsk in my mind now and the next games.
UK. Can you tell us about how you come to Donetsk?
JB. I had good connections with Ukraine. Since a long time I know Donetsk and this time, they called me and I accepted their offer. It happened so fast. I had to take the decision in two days, three games in a week is something very difficult and different but I knew that Donetsk have experienced players. It was a big challenge for me, that is the reason why I took this job.
UK. Do you think Ukraine League changed compared to two years ago?
JB. Although there are problems, like clubs does not have very good connection between each other, which is not good for basketball, I think Ukraine Superleague is improving, regarding clubs and players. Besides that, I think Donetsk have a good chance to show that in Superleague, there is not just money or salary but good teams, good organization, good competition, good budget, good facilities, good coaches and good everything. Everything that people can think that Ukraine is a really good opportunity to watch and play basketball. Players talk about where they go and where they come from, for sure, Donetsk must be one place that they can mention. There is a good chance for Ukraine via Donetsk to show that they can have a team which plays in European competitions like Galatasaray or Kuban. In 2-3 years, I believe that Ukraine league will be better.
UK. There are a lot of players that you know about from previous experiences in ACB like Radenovic, Songaila, Ivanov or Dor Fischer. Do you think they are below their level?
JB. Not only one or two players but as a team and as individually, we all are playing below our potential levels. Right now we are just %60-%70 of our level. There are many reasons for that- players need confidence. I think step by step they will improve. I think in Kuban game, we started to show something and a new period started considering this season. Against Galatasaray, we lost, it is a pity that we loss because it is not good but playing like this, you can lose one game but not entire season. The second round, Donetsk will be a better team and I am really sure of that. For now, we need time.
UK. Can you compare us the level of VTB and Eurocup. Which one is harder?
JB. Similar. In Eurocup, it depends on which group you are in. It can be harder or easier. Our group is more difficult for example. In VTB, there are more teams, there are many rich clubs mainly from Russia like Spartak or CSKA which means good players. All in all, I think they are similar.
UK. What is the difference between Russian and Spanish basketball mind?
JB. The basic difference between this part of Europe with Spain is the sport mentality. It is mainly about how you react with a win or with a loss. This is sports, only one team can win in a competition, it is clear. Most teams do not have such a perspective in Russia or Ukraine and they can be very impatient. However, some teams changed this mentality. For example, two years ago Donetsk played very good and despite of this, they lost against Budivelnik in the Ukrainian finals. They kept the coach (Sasa Obradovic) and it was a sign that they have a different mentality. The thing is you need time to build a team and if it is not given, you will lose. Think about English Premier League where some coaches have many years with their teams. Otherwise, only the rich clubs will win, if you constantly change coaches or players.
Josep Berrocal (agency: Stanislav Ryzhov ) is an ambitious coach. He does not run away from challenge, just the opposite, he goes into it. He did not have a chance to manage a team in ACB although well-deserved with all his experience from big clubs like Barcelona but he is not desperate about that. All he cares by now is basketball and he concentrates on things to do with Donetsk. Although he could not win the very first games where he coached Ukrainian club, there are signs of improvement. Against Sopot in the Game Week 3, Donetsk won in home and kept chances to advance for LAST 16. We will see whether they would manage to go beyond the achievement of last year, a Eurocup Quarter Finals at least, but I am quite sure that they will give a fight for that.
Behind a strong double-double showing of 12 points and 10 rebounds, courtesy of 6-11 Australian center Aleks Maric, and thanks to a dominate Most Valuable Player performance by interim big man Richard Hendrix, who contributed 14 points and 9 boards, Russian Lokomotiv Kuban secured its first ever Eurocup title with a 75-64 triumph over Spanish Uxue Bilbao [read more]
Behind a strong double-double showing of 12 points and 10 rebounds, courtesy of 6-11 Australian center Aleks Maric, and thanks to a dominate Most Valuable Player performance by interim big man Richard Hendrix, who contributed 14 points and 9 boards, Russian Lokomotiv Kuban secured its first ever Eurocup title with a 75-64 triumph over Spanish Uxue Bilbao.
Both Maric (Panathinaikos) and Hendrix (EA7 Milan), shown the door by their recently respected Euroleague homes, have managed to come alive in Russia, upped their statistics, and resurrect their stardom, en route to returning to Euroleague action next season.
While Maric is locked in with Kuban for the upcoming 2013-14 season, Hendrix, who is on a loan from Milan, will get shipped back to Italy to honor the second year of his deal.
Kuban Coach Evgeny Pashutin utilized his massive inside presence to the maximum. Maric playing the center, and Hendrix at power-forward revealed to be a killer duo combining for 19 boards, five of them offensive, and five assists.
"Our strategy offensively was to go inside to Richard Hendrix and Aleks Maric," a victorious Pashutin said. "They both dominated and we were able to get a lead, go from there and have a good game," the 44-year-old Russian-born coach added.
Awkwardly enough, Israeli power Maccabi Tel Aviv, currently trailing Real Madrid 0-2 in the best-of-five Euroleague quarter-finals series, is getting demolished inside the paint by its Spanish rival.
Seeing that Maccabi sent 7-footer Giorgi Shermadini to Greece on December 2012, and waived high-flying 6-8 power-forward Malcolm Thomas, who is now hooping for the Chicago Bulls, Shawn James' outstanding performances remain no match against Madrid's inside firepower. Dating back to March 2013, Maccabi targeted and engaged in conversations with Maric, who eventually preferred the Russian currency. Upon joining Kuban on January 2013, David Blatt heavily pursued Hendrix, and urged Tel Aviv officials to re-sign the Alabama alumnus. Yet Maccabi executives eventually inked Croatian Euroleague-rook Darko Planinic to a multi-year deal.
Planinic is far from being the coaching staff favorite Hendrix was, or Maric could have been, registering just 3.5 points and 1.5 boards during 6.5 minutes per versus Madrid.
As Madrid outrebounds Tel Aviv 85-44 over the first pair of series contests, Maric, tailing a miserable four points in seven minutes for Panathinaikos under former coach Zeljko Obradovic last season, has jump-started his international career, revisiting his dominance from when playing in Serbia with Partizan Belgrade.
"Our target from the beginning was to win this cup. We are now going to the play in the Euroleague. We conquered our goal of taking Kuban to the next level. It is an amazing feeling," said Maric, completing his Eurocup debut season with double-digit scoring figures of 11 points and 7.3 rebounds nightly.
Hendrix's season upside has also been remarkable. The 264-pounder who took home Israel's Center of the Year honors, discovered unfamiliar territory earlier this season under Sergio Scariolo, barley logging double-digits in minutes, which by default, meant failing to adapt to the Italian system.
In Russia, Hendrix revived his brand, doubled his scoring averages, and tripled his European competition statistics. For Kuban's defensive anchor, winning the Eurocup title was simply the icing on the cake.
Lokomotiv Kuban crowned new champions! - Apr 13, 2013
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Gescrap BB - Lokomotiv 64-75
Lokomotiv Kuban are the new EuroCup champions. They knocked down Bilbao Basket in Charleroi tonight to clinch the trophy. Aleks Maric (211-C-84, college: Nebraska) paced balanced effort from the Russian team finishing with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. The teams went neck and neck throughout the opening quarter. Bilbao Basket eked out a narrow 17:16 lead after the starting quarter. But Lokomotiv took over in the second frame [read more]
Gescrap BB - Lokomotiv 64-75 Lokomotiv Kuban are the new EuroCup champions. They knocked down Bilbao Basket in Charleroi tonight to clinch the trophy. Aleks Maric (211-C-84, college: Nebraska) paced balanced effort from the Russian team finishing with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. The teams went neck and neck throughout the opening quarter. Bilbao Basket eked out a narrow 17:16 lead after the starting quarter. But Lokomotiv took over in the second frame. They used a 15:2 run to secure a 37:28 lead. Kostas Kostas Vasiliadis (200-G/F-84, agency: FCM) stopped the rot with a jumper but Lokomotiv entered the second half up by 8 points 38:30. Derrick Brown (203-F-87, college: Xavier) and Calathes extended the lead to double digits early in the third term. Lokomotiv stayed in front throughout the third term. The Russian team entered the fourth quarter up by 9 points 54:45. Lokomotiv opened the fourth stanza with 11 straight points to shock Bilbao. The Basque team fought desperately till the final seconds and cut the deficit to 7 points but it was as close as they could get. Lokomotiv stayed calm and escaped with a triumphant victory at the end. Richard Hendrix (204-C/F-86, college: Alabama) finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds, while Derrick Brown added 11 points for the winners. Kostas Vasiliadis answered with 11 points for Bilbao Basket. Milovan Rakovic had 11 points in the losing effort.
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