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Ukraine: El-Amin To Assist Azovmash In Quest For Glory

17 October 2005

Azovmash Mariupol have had several months to stew over their exit from European competition at the hands of Dynamo St Petersburg last season.

Now they have a chance to exact partial revenge after being drawn to face them in Group A of this year's EuroCup.

Dynamo beat Azovmash in a best of three quarter-final, 2-0, and then marched all the way to the title with a perfect record.

The Ukrainian outfit looked to bolster their side in the summer and they did just that with one major impact acquisition in Khalid El-Amin, the man who led the FIBA Europe League in assists in 2005.

Serhiy Lishchuk (Ukraine)
Serhiy Lishchuk is fresh off a EuroBasket campaign with Ukraine
While playing for Besiktas, El-Amin, a big-time college player while in America at the University of Connecticut, dished out 7.2 assists per game.

"El-Amin is an experienced player and it will be no problem for him to adapt to our game," said Azovmash coach Girskis Rimas.

"I like to win and that's why I've chosen Azovmash - this is the team which has championship ambitions," said El-Amin of his move.  

The assists average no doubt helped El-Amin receive a nice contract but the playmaker who spent a year with the Chicago Bulls earlier in his career said: "I don't work for my own statistics.

"However, I am ready to assist when it is needed as well as to make decisive shots."

El-Amin has done plenty of that, too. Last season, he poured in an average of more than 20 points per game.

Although they won the race to sign El-Amin, Azovmash did lose out on big man Ratko Varda, who instead chose to sign for their Ukrainian rivals BC Kyiv.

However, they were able to find back-up for power forward Art Long by snapping up Kenan Bajramovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukrainian star Serhiy Lishchuk, both of whom played at EuroBasket 2005 in Serbia & Montenegro.

"I wanted to perform in a competition such as the EuroCup, and my previous team Khimik are only in the Challenge Cup," said Lishchuk when asked about his decision to join Azovmash.

Azovmash notched up a great 13-0 record in pre-season, beating teams such as Fenerbahce and Ulkerspor of Turkey and Aris of Greece, and they have begun the Ukrainian Superleague with three wins.

Girskis is keeping his feet on the ground, though.

"Of course we are glad to win all the pre-season games," he said.

"But unfortunately, it wasn't possible to check on all the players properly, especially those who played at EuroBasket.

"So, right now some they lack some mutual understanding.

"We made good signings in the transfer market, but we still need a good player for the small forward position, so I think we'll make one more signing".

The board at Azomash have targeted EuroCup success this season, and El-Amin is confident they can do well.

"Our coach wants us to play fast and dynamic basketball and I am sure it will work," he said, adding, "right now we have a good team spirit and we aim to win."

Azovmash's EuroCup season opens on October 25 in St Petersburg.

Looking back to last season, Rimas said: "Dynamo had better players in the main positions - Edo Cota as point guard and Ognjen Askrabic as center."

"We have desire to beat Dynamo, but still I treat them like a favourite."

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