Team of the Round of 16: Lee, Rice, Thomas, Hunter and Dragicevic
MIES (Switzerland) - A truly captivating opening phase of the Basketball Champions League Play-Offs is in the books. Defending champions AEK, Brose Bamberg, Hapoel Jerusalem, Iberostar Tenerife, Nanterre 92, Nizhny Novgorod, Segafredo Virtus Bologna and Telenet Giants Antwerp are still in the hunt for the title, with the Quarter-Final ties tipping off in two weeks.
Every one of these elite eight sides had standout performances from players the past two weeks. We've come up with a Team of the Round of 16 and yes, you'll recognize some of these names.
Paris Lee - Guard
Oh yes, that Paris Lee. The same one that lit up the BCL on December 18 and was named MVP of the Week for Gameday 9. Lee was terrific for Antwerp in their 152-145 aggregate triumph over UCAM Murcia. He had 21 points, 5 assists and 3 steals in the first leg and then 14 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in Wednesday's second leg.
Tyrese Rice - Guard
Here's a guy that should get plenty of MVP votes for the season. Rice has been, as expected, one of the best players in Europe all year and arguably his finest effort came in the 169-164 victory over Banvit in their Round of 16 showdown. On Wednesday night, Rice poured in 32 points, handed out 4 assists and collected 3 rebounds. He also played his part in the Freak City club's sparkling performance at the free-throw line, making all 8 of his attempts. In the first leg, he was darn good, too, with 20 points, 5 assists and a steal.
TaShawn Thomas - Forward
The 26-year-old Thomas had the wow factor for Hapoel in the Round of 16, especially on those drives in the lane when he held the ball high, arm fully extended, before jamming the ball home for a thunderous dunk. In the 170-138 aggregate triumph over Neptunas, Thomas set the tone early at Klaipeda in the first leg and finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He had 13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks in Wednesday's second leg victory in Jerusalem as well.
Vince Hunter - Forward
The deep and talented AEK boast arguably the best power forward in the competition in Hunter, a two-time MVP of the Week. Vince made PAOK wince with sublime performances in his club's 146-138 Round of 16 victory . In the first leg, the high-flying and hustling Hunter had 20 points, 12 rebounds and 2 assists and in Wednesday's return leg played before a raucous OAKA crowd, he had 11 points, 9 boards and 1 block.
Vladimir Dragicevic - Center
Nizhny Novgorod wouldn't be celebrating right now after their qualification for the Quarter-Finals had Mr Clutch, Vladimir Dragicevic, not been in top form against Umana Reyer Venezia. The Montenegrin center followed up a 10-point, 7-rebound, 2-assist and 3-steal performance in the opening leg with an even more impressive 21-point, 8-rebound, 2-steal effort in the second leg. The sight of Dragicevic setting a pick at the top of the key and then rolling to the basket was a common one, and it often led to him taking free-throws. He finished 11 of 12 at the stripe and help the Russian club advance with a 161-156 aggregate win.