17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
33 David Mccormack (DSK)
Long Read
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Closer Look: A Big's world out there

MIES (Switzerland) - It's been said that the Basketball Champions League is a guard's league and when you see that not one of the seven MVPs in previous seasons has been a center (or even a power forward), it's hard to argue that isn't the case.

That is until, perhaps, this season. Our Team of the Month for October had three bigs named: Justin Tillman, David McCormack, and Vernon Carey Jr. Usually we would see at least three guards making the list and the odd shooting guard or swingman sneaking in there to take up a forward spot.


But this season, we might have our strongest-ever cohort of bigs in the BCL and - whisper it quietly now - maybe we will break the duck with a big man winning the MVP award.

If that were to happen, who has shown us so far that they have what it takes?

Giorgi Shermadini (Lenovo Tenerife)

Whilst Lenovo Tenerife haven't fully clicked into gear yet, we can't start this list without the Sherminator. His body of work in this competition is just too big. We are going into Shermadini's fifth BCL season and the big Georgian has averaged over 13 points and over 5 rebounds in every single one.

He's already up to speed this season, scoring 13.5 points per game and pulling down 4.5 rebounds across his first two games.

However, one of the elements of Shermadini's game that often gets overlooked is his passing. Tenerife have a wealth of shooters on the perimeter and they know they can just dump the ball into the post, start moving without the ball and Shermadini will find them.

He's averaging over 3.5 assists across his first two games this season as well. Watch the way he reads the defense in the clip below and threads the pass through the eye of a needle.


Zach Hankins (Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem)

The American center is another name on the list with an impressive body of work in this league. This is Hankin's third season in the BCL and last year he was pretty close to putting up MVP numbers on his way to securing a spot in the Star Lineup for the season: 12.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game were enough to secure the honors. 

Hankins and Jerusalem have only played one game this season but what a performance it was to get past Galatasaray. It can't be easy to find your rhythm and timing when you haven't played a competitive game all season.

Especially when your opponent is six games deep already. Hankins put up an all-action 14 points and 8 rebounds, whilst shooting 86 percent from the field. Have a look at the performance in the video below and tell us that doesn't look like an MVP candidate.


Vernon Carey Jr (Pinar Karsiyaka) 

Carey is the youngest man on this list at just 22 and is still very much learning the ropes of European basketball. What a start he has made though: 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 blocks. over his first two BCL games. Carey is impacting the game in every way he possibly can for Pinar Karsiyaka and they are winning games as a result. 

We have seen the blocks and the statement dunks from Carey Jr. but something to watch as the season progresses will be the way coach Ufuk Sarica asks him to defend the pick-and-roll.

What we have seen, especially during this week's win against EWE Baskets Oldenburg, is that Carey looks comfortable switching and guarding perimeter players 1v1.

If he continues to put up the numbers he has and also shows the ability to really disrupt offenses with different defensive coverages, Carey is undoubtedly an MVP candidate for Karsiyaka.


David McCormack (Darussafaka Lassa)

Make no mistake, the clearest MVP numbers of any player on this early list belong to David McCormack.

Darussafaka Lassa have made a statement start to the BCL this season with a road win over VEF Riga and a home win over perennial contenders Tenerife. McCormack was completely dominant in both games, averaging 18.5 points and 8 rebounds, whilst shooting 68 percent from the field and 87 percent from the line. Yes, sir, those are MVP numbers.

Every time McCormack catches the ball in the paint he looks like he wants to pull the rim off the stanchion on every dunk.

We have seen him repeatedly go up strong in congested painted areas and we have also seen him show great touch on that mid-range jumper.

One thing to watch out for as the season goes on is the way MCormack and Dacka leverage his threat rolling to the rim to reverse the ball and give him the opportunity to seal a deep position in the paint. Once McCormack catches the ball in the paint, you may as well count the points.


Justin Tillman (AEK BETSSON BC)

On an AEK BETSSON BC roster full of stars, Justin Tillman has found a way to shine brightest of all so far. He has scored 34 points in two games whilst only shooting one free throw. He's also shooting 77 percent from the field. AEK are unbeaten in the BCL. 

Tillman is probably the most clinical finisher in the league when it comes to rolling to the rim. He uses his speed advantage to sprint his first three steps out of any pick-and-roll and if he catches it anywhere in the paint, at any angle, he can find a finish.

The speed with which he can get up those floaters and hooks makes him a matchup nightmare for the biggest bodies in the BCL. AEK look like a team that wants to go all the way this season. If they do, then Tillman will have played a huge role in that.


Honorable Mentions

It's still so early in the season and we have so much talent in our frontlines this season.

We haven't mentioned Simon Birgander of UCAM Murcia yet even though he's probably the lead MVP candidate in the Spanish Liga Endesa league so far.

Then there is Terrell Carter of Benfica and David Kravish of Unicaja. Austin Wiley of Tofas Bursa has made a strong start as well. The list goes on and on.


Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon is a basketball coach and analyst living in Madrid. Constantly digging in the crates of box scores and clicking through hours of game footage. Diccon is on the hunt for the stories within the stories. If you like to get a closer look at what’s going in the Basketball Champions League, you have found it.