The FIBA Europe League has thrown up several young prospects who, despite their tender years, are already making a splash on the European scene.
Andris Biedrins (Skonto), Viktor Keirou (Kazan), Vasileios Spanoulis (Maroussi), Yaniv Green (Hapoel Tel Aviv) and Steffen Hamann (Bamberg) are some examples from countries well known for producing basketball talent.
Belgium is not a country with a reputation for developing top class players, but that may be changing. In the women’s game, Ann Wauters has consistently proved herself to be one of the top players in Europe, if not the world. On the men’s side, national team center Tomas Van Den Spiegel has been talked about as an NBA prospect. He has shown this season with Italian side Skipper Bolgona that he is more than capable of competing in one of the top leagues in Europe.
Following in Van den Spiegel’s footsteps is Telindus Oostende power forward Christophe Beghin. Indeed, the two young frontcourt players were teammates in Oostende, before Van den Spiegel left for Italy.
|Beghin in action against CBC Siroki|
The 205cm Beghin is now 23, and he has improved steadily every year since breaking into the Oostende first team in 1999. He averaged 12ppg and 7.5 rpg in the 2001/2002 Belgian season, increasing those numbers to 15 and 9 last year. So far this season, Beghin has put up 17ppg and 9.5 rpg in domestic league action.
He began the FEL season with a bang, torching French side Le Havre for 26 points on opening night. Since then he has remained consistent, averaging 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds. He has excelled particularly on the boards, and he is the number 1 offensive rebounder in the league at 3.6 rpg.
Beghin says his side's aim is to qualify for the FIBA Europe League play-offs and right now Oostende are perfectly poised to achieve that goal. They have 4-3 record in Group A and with 5 games left in the qualifying round should be on of the top 4 teams in the group.
We caught up with Christophe before his team’s return match against French side Le Havre to get his views on his basketball career to date.
How would you sum up your experience in the FIBA Europe League so far this season?
Beghin: I don’t think we have played badly, especially against big teams like Kazan who are maybe the best team in the whole FIBA Europe League. So for us it is a good competition. I think the competition is really high and that is good for players like me and other youngsters in the team.
Are you happy with your team’s record?
Beghin: Not really because we didn’t play that well at home. We have played better away which is not normal. We lost the first game to Le Havre by 1-point, but in the 3rd quarter we were up by 20 so its impossible to play games like that. But it happens and we will know for the future.
Your numbers have gone up consistently in the past 3 years. Are you playing the best basketball of your career right now?
Beghin: Yes, because the coach gives me a lot of confidence and I play a lot more than before. I play like 30 minutes per game which is a lot. I try to do my best, but the team helps me a lot and I cannot do it by myself. That’s good for me and I’m learning a lot from players like Tony Dorsey who is very experienced.
You list Lithuanian national team player Virginijus Praskevicius as the best player you have ever seen. Was he a big influence on you?
Beghin: I think so because I played 2 years with him (at Oostende) and I learned a lot in practice. Now I try to do that in the game. He taught me a lot.
What about Van den Spiegel, was he another influence?
Beghin: Yeah we played a lot together because when I was young he was already in the first team in Oostende, so I saw him play a lot of games. I tried to learn from him and we have a very good relationship. This year he his having a great season so that is good for him.
You are 1st in offensive rebounding and 2nd in total rebounds in the FEL. What is your approach to rebounding?
Beghin: You know when I was younger I played in the junior national team just for that. I couldn’t score a basket (laughs). They just took me for rebounding. Now I am trying to complete my game by shooting and improving my post moves, which I think, is also good for the team.
|Beghin has been working to improve his post game|
What other areas of your game do you need to improve on?
Beghin: Shooting. I need to learn to shoot better from distance, which will create more space inside and be better for the team.
What is the goal for the team in Belgium and in the FEL?
Beghin: In the Belgian League we want to be champions. I think when you start the competition everybody wants to win. We have already lost 4 games but they were all close and we could have won them. We didn’t play that well for 40 minutes. When we started the FEL we wanted to be in the first 4. We need to play better at home, which is very important.
You only played 6 games for the national team last season, why was that?
Beghin: I had a shoulder injury so I preferred to rest and could not play all games.
So in the future you will play for Belgium
Beghin: Yeah that is no problem, if they want me (laughs)!