El-Amin Knows Tough Final Four Awaits Azovmash

10 April 2007

Nothing that Azovmash encounters at the EuroCup Final Four is going to faze them after what they've just been through.

Yes, they had to endure a very, very difficult quarter-final showdown with DTL EKA AEL Lemesos.

The Ukrainian team not only had to overcome an excellent Lemesos team, but a nightmare road trip to Cyprus.

Khalid El-Amin, Azovmash's high-scoring guard, can hardly believe how hard the other team's fans made it for him and his team-mates on March 9 when the Cypriot team beat them 85-79 to level the tie.

"The game in Limassol wasn't a classic basketball game," El-Amin said.

"We had never experienced fans throwing stuff on the basketball court, really not being very pleasant.

"I understand that it is a war, but they were throwing things on the court and kind of had an impact on the game.

"So you know, I wasn't surprised but I was happy that we had homecourt advantage and we made the most of it."

Indeed they did.

In the Game Three decider, Azovmash rolled to a 97-69 victory.

Girona, the venue of the Final Four, should be tense as well, especially with a semi-final encounter on Friday against Virtus Bologna - one of the real giants of the European game in the past decade.

Virtus have struggled of late in Italy, especially following the loss of center Kris Lang to a knee injury.

But Virtus coach Zare Markovski still has a lot of quality in his team - especially on the perimeter.

"It is going to be a good game," El-Amin said.

"I think they are a good team. I think once we learn more about them hopefully we can find some weaknesses and then hopefully play off those weaknesses to try to win."

El-Amin is a crucial figure for Azovmash, not just because of his terrific all-round game, but because of his experience and leadership.

As a player at the University of Connecticut, El-Amin won a national title in 1999.

That NCAA Final Four experience has clearly had a major impact on his thought process this time of year.

Khalid El-Amin (SC Azovmash Mariupol)
El-Amin is averaging a team-best 14.7 ppg in the EuroCup.
"I have to say that it really grounded me and allowed me to have success early so I am very comfortable in big games," he said.

"I'm very comfortable with my back against the wall.

"It made me have that much more experience for my career here."

Like so many terrific players who travel to Europe to play the game, El- Amin has had to adjust to life in a different city.

Kiev is a well-known travel destination in Ukraine with plenty to do, but Mariupol?

"It is very slow (laughs)," El-Amin said, "but I am having fun, I'm enjoying myself.

"My team is good and we are winning, which makes up for the lack of a good life or good city.

"My family has been over but there is not much for them to do so they are back home now."

As for BC Kyiv, Azovmash will have to knock them off again this year if they are to defend their Ukrainian title.

Kyiv failed to progress from Round I in the EuroCup this year but have been a force on the domestic front.

The rivalry between Kyiv and Azovmash is always intense.

The former have homecourt advantage in the domestic play-offs.

"I think it's (rivalry) even stronger now," El-Amin said.

"Both Kyiv and Azovmash want to be champions, they hate losing, so it is a great rivalry and we are just hoping to bring home the championship again."


11.04.2006 - From Tim Hanlon, PA Sport, Barcelona
11.04.2006 - From Cindy Garcia-Bennett, PA Sport

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