Russian basketball has seen tremendous growth in recent years that has allowed the league to reach a level close to some of the top leagues in western Europe.
Case in point can be the Russian team performances in the EuroCup.
The last two EuroCup champions are Russian teams: UNICS Kazan in 2004 and Dynamo St. Petersburg in 2005.
|Darryl Middleton is playing in Russia for the first time in his career |
In addition, Ural Great claimed the EuroCup Challenge title last month.
The growth of Russian basketball has been evidenced by players and coaches alike.
“They have good teams, similar to us in Spain,” said DKV Joventut head coach Aito Garcia.
“A while ago there were only one or two good teams, but now they have eight or nine.”
Darryl Middleton of Dynamo St. Petersburg has played nine years in Spain, five in Greece, two in Italy, one in Turkey and is in his first season in Russia.
"There are eight really good teams in Russia and that is more than there are in Greece," he said.
Dynamo forward Kelly McCarty, the Most Valuable Player of the EuroCup Final Four last year, previously played in Israel for five years.
He points out that there are eight very good teams in Russia, while Israel has two or three.
"You have to bring your game every night in Russia," said McCarty.
McCarty´s teammate Ognjen Askrabic feels that the Russian league is tougher than the league in his native Serbia and Montenegro.
"Clubs have big budgets, so they are able to bring in top players," Askrabic said.
"It´s a very tough league. One of the most difficult things is that the country is so big and we have such long road trips."
"Russian basketball is growing and there is good reason for optimism," added Dynamo head coach Fotis Katsikaris, who is in his first season in Russia after coaching previously in Greece.
"The level of play has been higher than I expected. It´s a huge country with lots of young players."