Brothers In Arms Out To Spark Chemistry


Mark Woods

Every week, collaborator Mark Woods talks to players with a single travel destination in mind this summer, Lithuania.

Next in the series is Kaloyan Ivanov of Bulgaria, twin brother of Dejan.

Mark Woods writes on basketball for a number of British newspapers as well as broadcasting for the BBC and Sky Sports. He is also assistant editor of and can be found on Twitter @markbritball.

"We don't have that twin thing where if I feel something, he'll feel it," Kaloyan Ivanov reveals.

Born minutes apart from brother Dejan, the force is strong but to call it telepathy might go too far.

"But we feel a very strong connection. We talk to each other, ten times a day. After every practice. If we see something on the TV. We'll call and trade comments."

The phone company, you suspect, have them on their Christmas card list.

5. Kaloyan Ivanov (Bulgaria)
Making a like for like substitution of Kaloyan Ivanov is one decision the Bulgaria coaching staff will not have to worry about during any game at the  EuroBasket...

There has been no need for the speed dial since their reunion last week when Bulgaria's national team gathered to begin its preparations for EuroBasket 2011.

It is 50 years since the Lions last won a medal in the competition, a glorious era long buried in the history books.

One which places little expectation upon the current generation.

However teams have often flourished with a two-pronged attack.

If Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson were the most celebrated Twin Towers, then the Bulgarians will hope to succeed with their towering twins.

Now 25, the brothers Ivanov form the core of Rosen Barchovski's young squad which will head to Klaipeda to meet Russia, Slovenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Belgium in the opening round.

"It's really special," says Kaloyan of the family reunion. With their careers diverging, his to Spain, Dejan's to Italy, in recent seasons, it is an opportunity to bond tightly together on and off the court.

The pair were always inseparable. They played together as kids, tennis, boxing, football, then, eventually, taking their game to the basketball court in their hometown of Varna.

Both came through the ranks, linking up when Bulgaria won the U20 European Championship, Division B in 2005.

Inter-changeable in the rotation, it means guarding each other - one on one - on the practice floor, an intriguing dynamic.

"There is a mix of things," Kaloyan confirms.

"Sometimes it's competitive. I'll want to show I'm better than him. He'll want to do the same. But we look out for each other. We maybe don't hit each other as hard as the other guys!

Deyan Ivanov - Bulgaria
...because there is Deyan, another 25-year-old power forward standing 2.04m tall, which, quite conveniently, is also called Ivanov

We know that we're good at it. The last thing we want to do is injure each other even if we're going 100% in the gym."

Barchovski has asked both siblings to be leaders this summer to assist their country's cause.

It is a role that both feel comfortable taking on, either solo or with help from their team-mates.

It is vital that there is chemistry, Ivanov states, if they are to flourish. "So we'll try to make the team where everyone is equal and where everyone listens to the other guys," he states.

"Sure, someone in certain situations has to take the leadership role. If that happens, I'm ready to take it on. I'm happy that coach and other people think we can do this. I want to make everybody believe in themselves."

Ivanov, who has yet to find a new club after leaving Spanish side Cajasol, has faith that Bulgaria can progress despite losing his unrelated namesake Pavel to injury.

His brother apart, they have a nucleus of similar age and approach, an group which went 4-4 in the Qualifying Round.

The preparations so far have been positive, he says. "We've been working through our drills, offensive and defensive things. It's been tiring but good."

The Bulgarians will need to shake off any fatigue for their EuroBasket opener against Slovenia.

The Russians also lurk ominously in the First Round.

"Those are the best teams but don't forget Georgia," Ivanov cautions.

"They have a pretty strong team. It will be tough in our group. We've played against every team in the past three years and I think we've beaten them all, including Russia in a friendly. I see it as quite an equal group."

Ivanov has no fear about what lies ahead. "I hope we'll be in Round 2. Anything can happen. If we have a bit of luck, a few three-pointers, a solid passing game, I think we can get through."

Sharing it with his closest comrade will make Lithuania special regardless. The brothers will hope there might yet be twin peaks.

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