The FIBA Europe Cup reaches its climax this weekend in Izmir, Turkey as Dynamo Moscow Region (RUS), Mitteldeutscher BC (GER), JDA Dijon (FRA) and home side Tuborg Izmir (TUR) will all battle for the trophy.
The competition began with all participating clubs split into 4 conferences, North, West, Central and South. After the preliminary round and play-offs, final fours were held in each conference. Dynamo were champions in Conference North, Mitteldeutscher in the Central, Dijon in West and Tuborg in South.
Mitteldeutscher v. Dynamo Moscow
German club Mitteldeutscher started the 2003 season with an all-new look. They hired former German national team coach Henrik Dettman and he brought with him Misan Nikagbatse and Stephen Arigbabu, both of whom were part of Germany’s Eurobasket 2003 campaign. The team is built around young players, including up-and-comer Peter Fehse and new signing, 18-year old Macuchar Markoishvilli. Markoishvilli, who hails from Georgia, has averaged 13ppg since his signing (2nd on the team) while hitting 50% of his 3-point attempts.
|Misan Nikagbatse is in his first season with Mitteldeutscher|
Mitteldeutscher have had more success in the FIBA Europe Cup, where they are undefeated so far this season. They beat Hungarian side Debreceni 93:77 in the Central Conference Final Four to qualify to Izmir.
Dynamo Moscow Region (not to be confused with Dynamo Moscow who play in the FIBA Europe League) play in one of Europe’s toughest competitions in the Russian Superleague. Their last game on the domestic front was against FIBA Europe League Final Four side Unics Kazan and they suffered defeat, 99:68.
Despite the loss, they are currently in 6th place in the table and well on course for a spot in the play-offs.
As with their opponents, the club is also undefeated in the FIBA Europe Cup. They had a tough time in the Conference Final Four, but a close victory (91:88) over Latvian side Valmiera and fellow Russians Avtodor Saratov (96:88) secured qualification to Izmir.
Dmitri Kouzmine earned MVP honours for Dynamo in their Final Four triumph. The 196 cm guard recorded season highs in points (23) and rebounds (14) to lead his side to the win. Their top player over the course of the season has been US import Johnny Taylor. The 201 cm forward has averaged 18ppg and 11rpg in the FIBA Europe Cup.
Tuborg Pilsener v. JDA Dijon
Tuborg go into their semi-final against Dijon with both the pressure and the advantage of being the home team. In fact, the Attaturk Sports Arena which will host the Final Four, has recently been refurbished and Tuborg have not used the facility all season. They practised there only for the first time today, perhaps slightly negating their home-court advantage.
An interesting aside is the participation of Tuborg forward Glenn Whisby. Whisby spent last season he was with Dijon and although he insists that he has no personal agenda and the team comes first, he does admit that a win will give him the satisfaction of beating his former employers.
Along with Whisby, fellow American Alex Jensen provides a potent front court attack for Tuborg and they are particularly strong on the boards (Jensen leads the Turkish league in rebounding). Both players have averaged double-doubles in the FIBA Europe Cup, Jensen at 11.5ppg and 12.1rpg and Whisby, 14.1ppg and 11.3rpg.
Another dangerous player is Turkish product Hakan Köseoglu. The young (he is 23) point guard was the MVP of the Conference Final Four and it was his final second jump shot which gave Tuborg victory over FYROM side Rabotnicki.
Köseglu has been Tuborg's best scorer this year at 16.3ppg (49% 3-point shooting) and also leads the team in assists at 3.8apg.
After a strong start in which they topped the table in the opening games of the season, Tuborg are currently in 4th place in the Turkish League.
For Dijon, a win in the FIBA Europe Cup would be a third trophy to add to their collection so far this season. Their win in the Conference West Final Four came just days after a great run of play in the French Cup (Semaine des As), in which they defeated Le Mans 62:60 to win the week-long tournament.
They started off a little shakily in the FIBA Europe Cup, losing to Portuguese side Clube Atletico. However, they got their revenge in the Conference Final Four, beating the same team in an overtime epic, 126:115.
If anything, the 2 final games showed the club’s versatility. They were able to grind out a defensive victory against Le Mans in the French Cup, holding their opponents scoreless in the last 3 minutes for a come-from-behind win. In contrast, their win over Club Atletico was due to an outstanding offensive performance in which they racked up 27 points in overtime to secure the win.
Dijon’s offensive firepower is underlined by the fact that they have 7 players who have averaged double-figures in points during the FIBA Europe Cup. Top of the pile is Georgian center Vakhtang Natsvlishvili, who has put up 18.8ppg, while Canadian national team guard Rowan Barrett has contributed 17.9ppg.
Young French prospect Paccelis Morlende (22 years old) has been the key ball distributor at the point guard position, averaging 6.4apg to go along with 15.5ppg. He has also shown a penchant for making big shots and it was his jumper that gave Dijon the lead in the final minutes against Le Mans in the French Cup, while he top scored against Clube Atletico with 31 points.