Lubos Barton was the man in charge of inbounding the ball from the half court. In a set play, he threw a long alley-oop to the basket and Rudy just flew over the defense to gently tip in the ball with two hands.
It was just the crown of a superb performance. Rudy stepped up like he hadnt done this season. Acting like a leader on the offensive end, taking responsibilities whenever the game looked ugly, he kept Joventut in the game by aggressively attacking the basket early in the game while knocking down key three-pointers, particularly in the fourth quarter. He finished with 20 points (5/9 from downtown) and 3 rebounds.
Rudy also led Joventut during the weekend in the ACB League with 17 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, but perhaps suffering the hangover of such an incredible victory, they were upset by Caja San Fernando. Also in the ACB, Marko Tomas enjoyed the best game of this (so far mediocre) season, scoring 12 points and grabbing 2 rebounds against Polaris World Murcia while helping Real Madrid to remain undefeated in the domestic competition.
Back to the Euroleague, Partizan didnt seem to care much about this competition in previous editions, but its never easy to play against them at Pionir in Belgrade. Maccabi was the victim this time, and one of the executors was Luka Bogdanovic, who netted 17 points and captured 6 rebounds. His teammate Uros Tripkovic settled for 11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Partizan is not the only Balkan team that is difficult to beat at home. Union Olimpija got rid of Lottomatica Roma in Ljubljana by relying in some part on the excellent effort of Domen Lorbek, who delivered 15 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals. The younger brother of Erazem is not much of an NBA prospect, particularly because he lacks superb athleticism, but hes a very fundamentally sound player with an excellent shooting touch and quite a solid all-around game.
Domen extended his fantastic week to the Adriatic League, leading Olimpija to upset Bosna on their very tough court in Sarajevo with 21 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
It seems like FMPs power forwards are stubbornly obsessed with making up for Dusko Savanovics departure. The team from Belgrade, the current leaders of the Balkan competition, suffered more than expected to beat Siroki, but it was Zoran Erceg and Dragan Labovic who lead the team to the victory. Erceg had 21 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, while Labovic contributed with 19 points, 3 rebounds and 4 steals. Dusko who?
They also did nice work in the ULEB Cup, helping FMP to open the competition with a comfortable victory over Anwil Wloclawek. This time it was 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists for Zoran, and another 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals for Dragan. However, the surprise came with Predrag Samardziski, who stepped up with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. It seems like this season he will finally enjoy consistent playing time, and his production should grow equally consistent.
Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) also made its debut with a triumph against a revamped PAOK. While not delivering eye-popping stats (4 points, 4 assists and 2 steals), Igor Milosevic had a crucial part in his teams victory over the Greek squad. The Serbian team played its best minutes with Igor on court. He provided rhythm to the game, creativity and aggressiveness on the offensive end, but also intensity on defense. His ability to beat his matchups off the dribble in the youth categories is well translated against pros, also taking advantages of screens, so Milosevic regularly split defenses creating good opportunities for his teammates and himself. He also provided a very nice effort on the defensive end, always trying to stay in front of his man and indeed forcing a few offensive fouls, but ultimately it cost him to foul out after barely 15 minutes of playing time.
Danilo Gallinari continues impressing with his talent and maturity in the Italian League. Playing for one of the top teams, Armani Jeans Milano (currently with a 4-2 record), hes not only a full-time starter, but hes becoming a key piece in the teams scheme: right now hes the most used player by coach Djordjevic, and only center Joe Blair has scored more points and shows better plus/minus stats than him. In the last game, a victory against Angelico Biella, Danilo had 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. This is impressive stuff for an eighteen year old player.
Gallinari looks equally reliable on both ends of the court. Taking advantage of his 6-9 size from the small forward position while enjoying a strong enough body to deal with veteran guys, he scores from the perimeter (36.4% in three-pointers), slashing towards the basket (showing excellent ball-handling skills, footwork and use of his body) and even asking for the ball in the low post if he sees a clear physical advantage. The kid is awfully fundamentally sound and really smart. On defense, hes extremely solid, showing surprising mobility for someone whose athleticism doesnt look very intriguing at first sight.
Danilo is likely the best 1988-born international player at this point. Not that hes necessarily the one with the most potential, particularly NBA-wise, but neither is there necessarily anyone above him in this class when talking about his future in FIBA competition.
Still in the Italian League, Luca Vitali had 16 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists for Premiata Montegranaro in the victory against Legea Scafati. Like what happened last season in the second division, hes being used as a three-point specialist (40.9% of accuracy), although he also does some playmaking.
In the Russian SuperLeague, CSKA crushed Ural Great by 44 points. Anton Ponkrashov, who is enjoying regular playing time even in the Euroleague, contributed to the massacre with 17 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Lets finish today by turning back to Spain, to the second division, the Adecco LEB.
Anyway, this season is solidifying Faveranis status as one of the most intriguing bigs in the international scene draft-wise. Hes a well-built, athletic and coordinated 6-11 low-post guy, which easily draws anyones attention. Hes rather effective near the basket, showing some solid moves in the low post and ability to finish with either hand in semihook fashion. He also enjoys a promising mid-range jumper to compliment his back-to-the-basket skills. Vitor moves quite well off the ball, looking for spaces as close as possible to the basket. Despite the strength of the league, size is not precisely a common good in LEB, so he usually enjoys a clear advantage here.
Obviously, one of the biggest issues at this point is the foul trouble. He has terrific defensive potential, showing excellent mobility and enjoying superb length to intimidate his rivals. However, he still hasnt figured out how to get the best of it, sometimes being beaten by quickness when he shouldnt, and especially having no measure when he goes for the block, often falling right over his rivals. Another question mark is his degree of character and intensity, as he sometimes has looked a bit passive on court for some stretches.
Another pearl of the apparently very productive 1988 pool, were talking about top-3 potential for this class if Faverani confirms what he has been showing lately.