Since retiring from the court for good in 2001, former Soviet Union and Ukrainian star Alexandar Volkov has remained very much involved in the world of basketball. He is currently the President of BC Kyiv, the club he founded in 2000, as well as a member of the Board of FIBA Europe.
On March 16th 2004, the eyes of the European basketball community will look to Volkov’s club as they will host the FIBA Europe League All Star Day.
“We want to show that we are developing basketball in Ukraine, especially Kiev,” says Volkov of his decision to bid for the event.
“We have never had a big event in Ukraine and before we get something really big, we want to show the European basketball community how we can organise an event.”
“Second is we would like to keep basketball in people’s eyes. Even if we are out of the FIBA Europe League, we want people in Kiev to see top level basketball.”
“Basketball was down for a litlte bit and forgotten for a few years, and now it seems like there is lots of basketball on tv and in the media and people are interested so we can be proud at the moment,” says Volkov.
“We are not satisfied yet but we can say that with the other clubs and the federation, we have achieved something of which we can be temporarily proud.”
Volkov explains that basketball in Ukraine is rooted in tradition and history. Of the great Soviet teams that dominated hte international game for 4 decades, players such as Alexander Belostenny and Vladimir Tkhachenko represented the Ukrainian school of basketball.
As a player, Volkov was also a foremost member of this group. He was a regular with the Soviet Union national team from 1984-1991, winning European and Olympic gold (in 1985 and 1988) in the process. He was also voted USSR player of the year in 1989.
Perhaps the legacy that Volkov is most proud, is his 3-year NBA career which began in 1989. At the time only a handful of European players had made the leap to the NBA and very few of them were successful. Volkov, who was selected by the Altanta Hawks in 1986, was one of the first Europeans to show that not only was he worthy of drafting, but also playing time.
Competing alongside NBA legends such as Moses Malone and Dominique Wilkins, Volkov averaged 5 ppg in his first season, upping those totals to 8 ppg, 5 rpg and 20 mpg in his final year.
After representing the C.I.S. at the 1992 Olmypics in Barcelona, Volkov moved back to Europe and Greek giants Panathinaikos. A year with the “Greens” followed in which Volkov won a Greek championship. He also played an integral role in guiding Panathinaikos to their first EuroLeague Final Four, teaming up with legend Nick Gallis and averaging 18.8ppg and 8.1 rpg. The lack of experience may have been a factor, and despite scoring 51 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in the 2 games, Volkov and Panathinaikos finished in third place.
The following season Volkov switched to rivals Olympiakos and once again made it to the EuroLeague Final Four. This time he reached the final in which he faced former national team-mate Arvydas Sabonis and Real Madrid. Madrid won, and the 94-95 season would prove to be Volkov’s last in top European club basketball.
Due to several injuries and the birth of his daughter, Volkov put his career on hold for the next 2 1/2 years. He did, however, have the chance to suit up for Ukraine in 1998, playing 3 games for his country in the semi-final round of the 1999 European Championship.
Volkov also put in several appearances for his newly-founded team BC Kiev in their first season, although strictly to help with the development of the team. But then he moved full time into management and the decision to stay in in basketball was an easy one.
“I never had a doubt about it,” he says.
“I learned about other businesses but I knew I would be in basketball.“
For Volkov, founding BC Kyiv was not only a chance to return home, but also to mould a club in his own image based on his experiences as a player in the Soviet Union, NBA and Greece.
“I always dreamed to run a team how I wanted, with my knowledge and everything happening the way I wanted it to.”
Although the current European season is over for Kiev, Volkov has plenty to occupy his time. The decision to appoint new coach, Italian Renato Pasquili, is one that Volkov describes as “exciting” and plans for the upcoming season have already begun.
“We have 4 months left untill the season is over and we want the coach to check out all our players and make the roster for next year. We also have time to research signing new players for next season and the next step is to have a good position in the Ukrainian champ and next year in the FEL to play much better and be among the first 16 teams,” he says.
In between of course, there is the small matter of the FEL All-Star Day. Planning and organisation has been underway for well over 3 months and the event promises to be one of the best in this year’s calendar.