Al Ahli Jeddah (SBL) strengthened their roster with addition of 24-year old American guard Keisten Jones (192-88kg-92, college: Bellarmine). He played last season at BBG Herford in German Regionalliga. In 26 games he recorded very impressive stats: 16.3ppg, 5.5rpg and 1.6apg. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Jones won German 2.Regionalliga (West 2 Group) championship title in 2015. He was also voted All-GLVC 1st Team in 2014 at his college time. Jones gradua... [read more]
Al Ahli Jeddah (SBL) strengthened their roster with addition of 24-year old American guard Keisten Jones (192-88kg-92, college: Bellarmine). He played last season at BBG Herford in German Regionalliga. In 26 games he recorded very impressive stats: 16.3ppg, 5.5rpg and 1.6apg. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Jones won German 2.Regionalliga (West 2 Group) championship title in 2015. He was also voted All-GLVC 1st Team in 2014 at his college time. Jones graduated from Bellarmine College in 2014 and it will be his third season as a professional player.
The Crailsheim Merlins have added athleticism and experience with Kevin Tiggs (196-G/F-84, college: E.Tenn.St.) who comes to help round out the roster during the injury to Tuukka Kotti. Tiggs is a 32 year old 196cm forward from Flint, Michigan that is entering his eigth professional season. He has played in countries like Ukraine, Cyprus, France, Finland, Australia and last season he played for Sopron KC (Hungary-A Division) playing 36 games: 13.3ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.8apg, Steals-3 (2.2spg), FG... [read more]
The Crailsheim Merlins have added athleticism and experience with Kevin Tiggs (196-G/F-84, college: E.Tenn.St.) who comes to help round out the roster during the injury to Tuukka Kotti. Tiggs is a 32 year old 196cm forward from Flint, Michigan that is entering his eigth professional season. He has played in countries like Ukraine, Cyprus, France, Finland, Australia and last season he played for Sopron KC (Hungary-A Division) playing 36 games: 13.3ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.8apg, Steals-3 (2.2spg), FGP: 69.2%, 3PT: 27.4%, FT: 84.3%; FIBA Europe Cup: 6 games: 9.0ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.5apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 48.6%, 3PT: 29.4%. "He has always been able to bring energy to teams with his postitive attitude. He could be our missing puzzle piece. He has a good drive to the basket and has much athleticism", stressed Tuomas Iisalo. The American gets a contract until mid January 2017.
He started his basketball career in 2005 with Mott CC (NJCAA2) where he played two seasons and then moved to E.Tenn.St. (NCAA) playing a total of 66 NCAA games in his last two seasons and as a senior played 34 games: 21.4ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.0apg, 2.1spg, FGP: 52.9%, 3Pts: 35.2%, FT: 76.6%. He started his professional career in 2009 with Ferro-ZNTU Zaporozhye (Ukraine-Superleague) playing 34 games: 15.0ppg, 4.4rpg, 2.4apg, Steals-5 (1.8spg), FGP: 63.9%, 3PT: 39.8%, FT: 77.8% In the 2010-2011 season he played remained with Ferro-ZNTU Zaporozhye (Ukraine-Superleague): 5 games: 8.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 44.8%, 3PT: 25.0%; EuroChallenge Qualifying Round: 2 games: 14.5ppg, 1.5rpg, 2.5apg, 1.5spg; in Oct.'10 moved to Cytavision Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus-Division A) playing EuroChallenge: 6 games: 11.2ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.2apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 66.7%, 3PT: 30.8%, FT: 58.3%; Cyprus League: 12 games: 14.3ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.8apg, Steals-1 (2.5spg), FGP: 56.1%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 77.3%. In the 2011-2012 season he played for Hoverla Ivano-Frankivsk (Ukraine-Superleague, starting five): EuroChallenge: 6 games: 11.7ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.0spg, FGP: 67.6%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 70.6%; Ukrainian League: 42 games: 14.2ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.9apg, 1.6spg, FGP-3 (60.9%), 3PT: 32.9%, FT: 71.4%. In the 2012-2013 season he moved to DA Dijon Bourgogne (France-ProA): EuroChallenge: 2 games: 5.5ppg, 1.0rpg; French ProA: 6 games: 6.3ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.2apg, 2FGP: 68.8%, 3FGP: 11.1%, FT: 92.9%, released in Nov.'12, in Feb.'13 moved to Hoverla Ivano-Frankivsk (Ukraine-Superleague): 18 games: 10.1ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.5apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 54.1%, 3PT: 26.5%, FT: 68.8%. In the 2013-2014 season he moved to Wollongong Hawks (Australia-NBL, starting five): 26 games: 14.5ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 58.0%, 3PT: 30.2%, FT: 73.8%. In the 2014-2015 he played for Namika Lahti (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 30 games: 15.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.8apg, Steals-5 (1.7spg), FGP: 56.7%, 3PT: 39.7%, FT: 78.6%.
Awards and achievements in his basketball career have been NJCAA Coaches Association Division II National Player of the Year -06, national championship -07 A-Sun Tournament Semifinals -08, All-A-Sun 2nd Team -08, A-Sun Regular Season Runner-Up -09, A-Sun Tournament Winner -09, A-Sun All-Tournament MVP -09, A-Sun All-Tournament Team -09, All-A-Sun 1st Team -09, NABC Division I All-District 3 First Team -09, College Insider, Mid Major All American Team -09 Ukrainian Cup Winner -10, Ukrainian All-Star Game -10, Ukrainian Superleague Semifinals -10, Ukrainian Superleague Regular Season Runner-Up -10 Eurobasket.com All-Ukrainian Superleague 2nd Team -10, Eurobasket.com All-Cyprus League Defensive Player of the Year -11, Eurobasket.com Cyprus League All-Defensive Team -11, Cyprus League Regular Season Champion -11, Cyprus League Semifinals -11, Australian NBL Semifinals -14, Australiabasket.com All-Australian NBL Six Player of the Year -14, Australiabasket.com All-Australian NBL Honorable Mention -14, Hungarian Cup Semifinals -16, and Eurobasket.com All-Hungarian League Honorable Mention -16.
Inconstant: I would choose this adjective to define the first part of ALBA's season. Some exciting victory - as happened in Eurocup against Bilbao and especially with Lietuvos in a thrilling match marked by a double overtime - but also heavy defeats, some of which were unexpected for the outcome of the game (Frankfurt, for example) or for the deep scoring margin (against Bayern, Khimki and Fuenlabrada). But results' discontinuity is the tangible proof of the discontinuity showed during a... [read more]
Inconstant: I would choose this adjective to define the first part of ALBA's season. Some exciting victory - as happened in Eurocup against Bilbao and especially with Lietuvos in a thrilling match marked by a double overtime - but also heavy defeats, some of which were unexpected for the outcome of the game (Frankfurt, for example) or for the deep scoring margin (against Bayern, Khimki and Fuenlabrada). But results' discontinuity is the tangible proof of the discontinuity showed during a single match: even when the team wins, it can be seen two sides of the same team. Great efficiency on both halves of the court followed by sudden drops that provoke negative consequences.
When we are talking about defense, it is important to bear in mind that one, two or three players are not enough to make a good team's defense; it is necessary to create the right collaborations and especially a great communication to build a solid defensive system. Naturally it takes time to set up it, in particulary when there are a lot of new players. Great teams "breathe together" defensively, but unfortunately this is not ALBA's case at the moment. There are different reasons to explain their defensive issues: bad collaboration - that often causes terrible mistakes on the switches - , wrong defensive attitude, low concentration off the ball. But I would pay attention to the biggest - in my humble opinion- trouble: little desire to fight and to struggle. After Braunschweig, ALBA is the worst BBL's team at rebounding and many games have been characterized by a clean predominance of its opponents. For sure there aren't extraordinary rebounders in ALBA's frontcourt but this is not the only key to clear up this lack; I noted little desire and little presence to grab a rebound or to recover a loose ball. In the last game against Giessen, I saw a different attitude and the right intensity for the first time; recently ALBA's head coach, Ahmet Caki , upgraded to starting lineup Akeem Vargas (192-G-90, college: Iowa Lakes CC), probably the best on ball-defender of his team. I think the Turkish coach wants to "reward" who shows a defensive abnegation on the field during this difficult and discontinuous period: that's why also Ismet Akpinar (190-PG-95, agency: BeoBasket) finds important minutes. Vargas and Niels Giffey (200-G/F-91, college: Connecticut) are doing a commendable job on defense. The first stays always aggressive on the ball, putting an amazing intensity to get through the screens and to contest the opposing shots taking advantage of his long arms; the second has the ability to be helpful in a lot of situations and I love his defensive skills: always focused, always with the right defensive position and the right balance to make efficient close-outs, always ready on the switches, where his weapons are readiness and a remarkable quickness of his feet. He's an intelligent player, so he can help the teammates in many different ways. He's a substantial 3-point shooter but he's also a great cutter and a capable rebounder with good physicality: many times he knows before anyone else where the ball will drop and on defense he's able in going to pre-rotation for a double-team, too. Every time I saw him this season's beginning, I appreciated his effort on both sides of the floor: he has been the most solid element as yet. Now let's focus on two players that haven't offered so far what everybody expected: Peyton Siva (183-PG-90, college: Louisville) and Dominique Johnson (192-SG-87, college: Azusa Pacific, agency: Higher Vision Sports). Peyton is as creative as conditioning for the way he plays and the role he covers; Dominique needs to play a particular kind of basketball made up of high pace and enough possessions to be productive. I think Siva and Johnson are both humoral and instinctive players, so when you decide to acquire them you must be aware of their features, first as person - being integral part of the team is fundamental for the both of them - and secondly as player. Doubtless, they prefer an up-tempo system with many fast-breaks, in short a game based on quick offensive transitions; but playing so unavoidably implies a large number of turn-overs and questionable choices. Probably, Caki would prefer a more controlled game with more prudent choices, especially in crucial parts of the matches; in truth, different choices at the end of the quarters - or in other important moments of the game, too - are truly questionable but I also believe that the most appropriate attitude towards them is being patient and willing to "forgive" and tolerate their mistakes, because mistakes are integral part of their style of play. Punishing is not the solution to problems, in my opinion. Certainly live ball turn-overs guarantee easy points to the opponents and can change the inertia, but if you are not prepared to accept their instinct - with positive/negative effects - you mustn't acquire them. Their defense is rather the real problem. I think Johnson's defensive performances are well below his possibilities; I note he's a good on-ball defender, when he's engaged with the right attitude and concentration. Last year he played a good defense with Banvit, but now it looks like he has not a great desire to apply in this part of the game. Off the ball, his opponent often creates separation with him, so a wide open shot can be produced; on the ball he does not takes the proper aggressiveness in pick and roll's situations so he's forced to slide behind the screen and he's often out of the best defensive position, doing bad slips without using his chest, too. And yet he's a better defender! Engin Atsur (190-G-84, college: N.Carolina St., agency: BeoBasket) is completely different compared to Siva; he prefers a half-court game and his best weapon has been the 3-point shot so far. He's a great shooter especially in catch-and-shoot's situations but he can also scores directly from the dribble. Differently than Siva, certainly he does not have great quickness and great ability to create an advantage from the dribble, but he's a solid player, able to be an important "balancer" for his team. On defense, he's showing teammates' same issues: separated from his opponent off the ball, little intensity on the ball, where he does not possess great physicality. An other guy that alternates good and bad defenses is Dragan Milosavljevic (198-G/F-89). I believe sometimes he's too much soft, in particulary on the opposing screens, on and off the ball too. Not always focused and ready on the switches so far, in my opinion one of Dragan's defensive problems is slowless in doing lateral slips, so it happens that even when he makes a good defense, he's often off balance when the opponent makes a sudden and quick spin or decides to change direction. On the other hand, his offensive qualities are indisputable. I think he's doing a great job off the ball: he never stays stationary and he never gives a reference point to the opponent who's guarding him, so he's very good at making back-door cuts and at coming off the screens to do what he prefers: dribble-jump stop-shot. He's a capable shooter behind the arc, especially in catch-and-shoot and he's also fine at finishing at the rim due to his good physicality. I noted recently his head coach decided to entrust him more possessions concerning pick and roll: Dragan has an important IQ and he's also a good passer, able to read what defense puts forward; winning choice by Caki because against Giessen, Dragan offered a substantial performance with 8 dishes. ALBA's back-court has many excellent players at passing the ball coming off the pick and roll with great timing, like Siva, Johnson, Atsur and Milosavljevic.
Coming at the front-court, for sure Elmedin Kikanovic (211-C-88, agency: BeoBasket) has been the most positive note of his team until now. On offense, his offensive luggage has only one word to be described: completeness. He is known for his abilities in post-up where he can score with many different moves: static situations where he takes advantage of his strenght and finishes with a drop-step in the middle of the paint or with a baby-hook shot. Despite not possessing a massive body, he has very quick feet that allow him to make snap and unpredictable moves making sudden spins with an exceptional tip and taking the baseline, too. Because of his feet's quickness, he runs the floor very well and he's also able to attack front of the rim, dribbling with good ability and excellent coordination and adding an important mid-range shot, a very important weapon to make him more dangerous. He produces a lot of points making the most of his ability to allow fouls. On defense, though this choice hasn't been too much lucky so far, Ahmet Caki pretends his centers make aggressive "shows" on the perimeter. Not always Elmedin feels comfortable in this situation, so it happens that he sometimes is good at stretching defense's perimeter, sometimes takes a bad position, not bent with his legs, so wide spaces grow for the opponents. I think he have to become more continuous on the switches and he have to improve at rebounding and helping: as mentioned before, he's not massive and too much powerful, but I don't think this is the only problem. He's often out of the proper position to grab a rebound and he doesn't makes the box-out correctly and in my opinion he's not ready to struggle so much. About Tony Gaffney (206-PF-84, college: Massachusetts, agency: Octagon Europe), we can say he's showing off an extraordinary commitment on the defensive side: he brings to this team a lot of energy, he never gives up and he's always ready to throw on a loose-ball and to fight for a rebound. Important team player, doubtless he's more efficient than Kikanovic and Bogdan Radosavljevic (213-C-93) at making defensive choices his head coach requests because of his good feet's speed and catching energy and aggressiveness. Bogdan Radosavljevic has a good offensive potential; like Kikanovic, he's able to cut after the screen so he feels comfortable with a lot of good passers in ball screen's situations. He have to improve at posting-up, but he's also demonstrating an acceptable mid-range shot. On defense, there are concentration's issues: he is not always focused. Last Sunday he committed 5 fouls in 10 minutes, showing a very bad attitude on the floor: always off balance and never bent on the legs with an excessive use of his hands to contain opponents' penetrations. Few words about Paul Carter (205-F-87, college: Ill.-Chicago) and Malcolm Miller (200-F-93, college: Holy Cross): Carter arrived to replace injured Miller and showed a poor comprehension of the game. Besides issues concerning his bodily structure - his weight is not enough to contain opponents with a higher size and weight, as happened against Bayreuth's DeMon Brooks - , he has proved many limits about defensive principles: he's behind schedule about defensive helps and rotations and he have to be more aggressive and resolute when he's on the court. It's too early to judge Miller, but he can add verticality to the front-court, despite not having great weight to offer. It seems he's decided and ready with great determination.
Finally: defense is the sore note, not the offense. It is true that there aren't many good defensive players and it is true that several of them have structural problems on this side. But it is also undeniable that these issues could be relieved with intelligence and collaboration and in particulary with the desire to struggle every single possession. Without desire, everything gets more complicated.
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