09 October, 2018
05 May, 2019
30 Norris Cole (AVELL)
Igor Curkovic's Champions League Help-Side
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My undying love for Italian basketball; Rathan-Mayes bouncing back; the rise of Fall

ZAGREB (Basketball Champions League) - If it's getting too chaotic for you with 16 games each week, just relax. Help-side column is here to closeout another week of the Basketball Champions League.

Exactly 50 percent of the games were decided by single digits, and we also had games like Lietkabelis v Nymburk or Antwerp v Jerusalem that went from one-possession duels into double digit wins in a hurry, just to add to the fact that you never know what you get with this field of 32.

Italy in my heart

It's hard to pin-point the exact moment in which it started. Growing up in Split, Croatia, I was lucky enough to be able to catch the RAI Sport TV channel, and spend my days and nights with their Lega Basket Serie A coverage, so maybe that's when I fell in love. 

Because that's what happens to basketball addicts when they see Scavolini Pesaro's shirts with the wide shoulders - man, those were a hit in the late 1990s and early 2000s - and guys like DeMarco Johnson and Melvin Booker on the floor. Yes, Melvin, father of Devin Booker, the star of the Phoenix Suns.


Or maybe it was the Bologna derbies between Fortitudo and Virtus, with Carlton Myers and Gregor Fucka up against the loaded Virtus team with Alessandro Abbio, Antoine Rigaudeau, Marko Jaric and that Argentinian guy named Manu Ginobili. Even if you somehow stopped all of them, you still had to worry about Rashard Griffith, and I tell you, in my young and naive brain back then, Rashard was more dominant than Shaq or Dino Radja.

And then, there was the late, great Henry Williams. The smoothest of left hands you've ever seen. I've never been so jealous as a kid than that time when Hi-Fly scored 33 for Benetton Treviso in Split, and then gave his hand band to a guy sitting right in front of me in the packed Gripe arena. Long story short, Italian basketball was so easy to fall in love with back in those days.


Fast forward to the days of the Basketball Champions League, and it still is! Italian teams have gone 3-0 this week, Venezia are unbeaten in all competitions this season, Bologna dismantled Olimpija in Ljubljana, and Avellino played the fifth game in the history of the Basketball Champions League in which both teams scored 100+ points, beating the Polish champs Anwil 105-102.

Previous four? Glad you asked:

Yes. All five of our "100+ for both teams" games were played in Italy! Hopefully, some kid from halfway across Europe watched them, and in 20 years or so will write a column about it. "Man, that Norris Cole dude..."

What's wrong with Germany and Turkey?

Spain also went 3-0 this week, with Fuenlabrada denying Dijon and France a chance of 4-0. Belgium were 2-0, but at the other end of the scale, it's the two countries we're so used to seeing at the top. Turkish teams were 0-2, Germany's fall is even harder at 0-4 with Bonn and Bayreuth losing at home, Ludwigsburg and Bamberg on the road. 

Don't think it will happen again this season, so it's worth mentioning now.

The rise of Fall

Speaking of falling, everybody needs a good Fall every now and then. Just ask SIG Strasbourg. Their 7ft3in (2.21m) tower named Youssoupha Fall debuted with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks off the bench, but the most telling stat of his presence was the +22 that Strasbourg enjoyed during big guy's 27 minutes of action.

He guided the SIG ship to win away at Besiktas, and winning is something the 23-year-old does regularly. Fall is coming off of a season in which he won the French League with Le Mans, followed by winning a transfer to Baskonia. Now on loan in Vincent Collet's squad, Youssoupha is winning over the minutes, gaining the experience, and winning games. Win-win, all around.


How To Bounce Back, by XRM

There was a target on his back when he arrived in Athens, with the pundits declaring him a legit contender for the (unofficial) rookie of the year award. Target got huge once he went 1-of-14 from the field against CEZ Nymburk last week, so it was interesting to see how Xavier Rathan-Mayes would act against a huge name like Brose Bamberg this week.

Safe to say, the Canadian guard is doing okay. AEK's win was arguably the most impressive of the week, and XRM's 24 points on 8-of-15 from the floor suggest that The Queen could protect her crown. Keep an eye on Xavier the rest of the way, thank me later.

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👑 Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion! #BasketballCL

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Pass-first guards are alive

The defensive midfielders of basketball are back! Ferran Bassas took three shots in 23 minutes of action, but dished out 10 assists for Tenerife against Fribourg. Tomas Bellas has done something similar for Fuenlabrada, three shots and 7 assists in 24 minutes against Dijon. Antoine Eito also took three shots, had 7 assists in 27 minutes for Le Mans against Ludwigsburg.

Doing great things, and rarely getting the mentions. Just like Eric Dier or Jorginho or N'Golo Kante...

Team of the week

Rather than just selecting All-Star Five kind of team, allow me to select an actual team as the team of the week. This time, it has to be Telenet Giants Antwerp! Hapoel were riding a five-game winning streak in the Israeli League and Basketball Champions League combined, but they had no answer for the Giants.

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That winning feeling! #BasketballCL

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You kept waiting for that one last run by Amar'e Stoudemire and his teammates, but the run came from the hosts. Jae'Sean Tate finished with 24, Victor Sanders scored 22 in 21 minutes, Dave Dudzinski contributed with 15, Paris Lee collected a 12-point, 11-assist double-double, Tyler Kalinoski had 11 points, and Ismael Bako owned the paint with 11 rebounds.

Oh, by the way... Nobody on that team is older than 27!

The Basketball Champions League's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA or the Basketball Champions League.

The Basketball Champions League's takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.



Igor Curkovic

Igor Curkovic

Igor Curkovic is a Basketball Champions League writer and editor since day one of the competition, specializing in Power Rankings and his Takeaways on Gamedays. When he's not covering basketball, he's probably watching a Hajduk Split game somewhere.