|09 January 2013|
|Back to the future for Joakim Kjellbom who returns to the Norrköping Dolphins after a 1 1/2 season spell in Georgia |
EuroChallenge side Norrköping Dolphins decided to start the new year by bolstering their frontcourt but ended up doing much more than simply patching up their roster.
The Norrköping club created a splash in Sweden by luring back two of the nation's most recognisable basketball players, senior internationals Christian Maraker and Joakim Kjellbom.
Maraker, who last played in the Swedish league in 2001 with rivals Södertälje Kings, spent the past several seasons in the Japanese league and his repatriation after a career abroad that spans over 10 years created headlines.
Before embarking on his Asian adventure, the 30-year-old power forward had played for historical Slovenian club Olimpija Ljubljana and also tasted life in Spain's LEB division, on the books of three different clubs.
Maraker was instrumental in Sweden's successful EuroBasket 2013 Qualification Round campaign last summer.
He averaged 13.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and helped the national team clinch second place in Group B, behind Germany, to punch their ticket to the big event in Slovenia next September.
Norrköping had waited long enough to capture such a high-profile Swedish international and then, just like the bus, two of them came along together.
On Monday, just days before Maraker had formalised the details of the return to his native country, the club announced they had also reached an agreement with Joakim Kjellbom for the center to rejoin the Dolphins roster.
Kjellbom had left Norrköping at the end of the 2011/11 season for fellow EuroChallenge outfit Armia.
In his first EuroChallenge season with the Georgian champions he averaged 10.3 points and 9.8 rebounds,.
This year, the 2.13m center contributed 5.5 points and 4.8 boards during the six games of the Regular Season.
The 33-year-old Kjellbom was an important piece for Sweden in their bid to reach EuroBasket 2013, averaging 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds in the Qualification Round last summer.
"The contract [with Kjellbom] is until the end of the season, but with some professionals clauses; This is good news, we had shortcomings close to the basket," said the Dolphins' club director Bosse Sundberg.
The Dolphins travel to Russia to face Krasnye Krylia in their EuroChallenge Last 16 opener on Tuesday.
MINSK IN SEARCH OF BALANCE
|One of three players to leave Minsk: Nigel Munson|
A quite different-looking Tsmoki Minsk squad will take to the court when the EuroChallenge Last 16 tips off next week.
The Belarusian side parted ways with american center John Edwards before Christmas, but have not yet announced a replacement in the frontline.
Two more changes followed, this time in the backcourt.
20-year-old Swiss guard Stefan Petkovic, who joined the team in October, said he was unhappy with the amount of playing time he was getting and announced he would seek greener pastures elsewhere.
Petkovic had featured in only three of Minsk's six games in the EuroChallenge Regular Season, 3.7 points and two assists in 10.7 minutes on the floor.
Then Minsk announced they had terminated their collaboration with another playmaker, 26-year-old American Nigel Munson, who had not satisfied the club with his contribution during the first half of the season.
Munson averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 assists per contest in the six games of the EuroChallenge Regular Season.
In order to replace the American player on the roster, the Belarusians announced they had penned a deal with his compatriot Darryl Bryant.
The 22-year-old point guard is an unknown quantity in Europe, as he spent the last four season playing in the NCAA.
Minsk described the new addition to their squad in an official statement as a good defensive player with excellent vision of the game, who is capable of forcing opponents into turnovers and initiating fast breaks.
Bryant, who played for University of West Virginia, averaged 9.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in the American college championship.