|24 June 2011|
Europeans In The NBA
|Enes Kanter (right) and Jonas Valanciunas went head-to-head in the U18 European Championship two years ago. If the latter decides to follow the example of the Turkish no.3 draft pick, they will play against each other much more often, on the other side of the Atlantic|
Europeans are making headlines in North America with many selected in Thursday's NBA draft and others traded.
Turkish center Enes Kanter, a standout performer in past European Youth Championships, was the third pick overall by the Utah Jazz and Lithuanian hotshot Jonas Valanciunas of Lietuvos Rytas went fifth to Toronto.
The European with two years of Turkish Airlines Euroleague experience under his belt, Partizan Belgrade's Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic, was taken sixth overall by the Washington Wizards.
Montenegro also underlined their status as one of the hotbeds of European hoops with Nikola Vucevic, a 20-year-old who spent three seasons at the University of Southern California (USC), taken 16th overall by Philadelphia.
Lithuania's Donatas Motiejunas (Benetton Treviso) and Nikola Mirotic (Real Madrid) were taken 20th and 23rd by Minnesota and Houston, respectively.
Mirotic was sensational this season for Madrid and while he signed a long contract extension with the Spanish club, he can say that he already understands how things can change quickly in the NBA.
Motiejunas can as well because both were involved in a three-team trade that saw the rights of Motiejunas go to Houston and Mirotic's rights to Chicago.
Kanter, who had hoped to play for the Kentucky Wildcats in American college basketball in 2010-11 but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, joins a Utah side that has a long history of having European players like Russian forward Andrei Kirilenko and Kanter's countryman, Mehmet Okur, on their roster.
|Young European Player of the Year for 2010, Jan Vesely, has already waved goodbye to Partizan fans and is ready to commence his adventure in the NBA with the Washington Wizards|
The NBA will be a tough league for the 19-year-old but he is champing at the bit to prove his worth.
"I love to get hit," Kanter said.
"I just love to play toughness.
"So it doesn't matter who.
"I'm just going to put myself in the court 100%."
Utah were not only impressed by Kanter's physique, but his soft shooting touch, athleticism and what they perceive to be a basketball IQ that should make him a premier big man one day.
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said: "We did our homework.
"We saw him in pre-season, and he worked so hard.
"We like his size and his motor. He is a willing worker.
"He is going to get better every day. You get a big guy that will run the floor and work like he does, he will be successful."
Vesely, the 2010 FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year, was no less excited.
He is hoping to use his time in the NBA to raise the profile of the game back home.
"Basketball in my country is not so popular, but after this night, I think - I hope - that the basketball will be more popular," Vesely said.
"I will do my best to help in that."
All of the European players taken in the draft have represented their countries in international competition at youth level and are sure bets to feature for the senior teams in the very near future.
Some could end up this summer at the EuroBasket in Lithuania.
Young European talent was also on show at the beginning of the next round.
Croatia's Bojan Bogdanovic was chosen by Miami with the first pick of the second round and his rights were dealt to Minnesota, and Latvia's small forward Davis Bertrans was taken 12th by Indiana.
Serbia senior national team forward Milan Macvan of Maccabi Tel Aviv went 24th in the second round to Cleveland.
As for trades involving Europeans already with NBA ties, one of Spain's leading players with three years of NBA experience already, Rudy Fernandez, was dealt by the Portland Trail Blazers to the newly-crowned NBA champions Dallas Mavericks.
"Thanks to the Blazers fans for their support in these three years," Fernandez said.
"Now Dallas! I am delighted to have joined the best team in the NBA."
Portland also traded the rights of Finland sharpshooter Petteri Koponen to Dallas.