Where are they now: Hilton Armstrong (video)

bjkbasket.org

bjkbasket.org

When we last checked in with Hilton Armstrong almost a year ago he had just been selected to represent the Golden State Warrior’s D-League affiliate (Santa Cruz) in the 2014 NBA D-League All-Star game. For the remainder of the Spring, Armstrong bounced between Santa Cruz and Golden State before signing in April for the remainder of the NBA season. He appeared in fifteen regular season games and all seven of the team’s playoff games posting averages of 1.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 6.5 minutes. Additionally, Armstrong appeared in 32 (23 starts) D-League games, averaging 12 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.75 blocks in 30 minutes of action. However, with a healthy Andrew Bogut returning from injury, the Warriors waived Hilton on July 30th. Two weeks later, Armstrong signed with Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League.

Besiktas

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Leagues: Turkish Basketball League, EuroCup

Notable past players: Allen Iverson, Deron Williams, Khalied El-Amin

If you follow the NBA, Besiktas may ring a bell. In 2010 the club announced it’s largest contract in basketball division history, dishing out $4 million to Allen Iverson. Iverson played only ten games before retiring from professional basketball after calf surgery. Next season, locked out of the NBA, Deron Williams announced he would play for Besiktas for a cool $5 million. After Williams’ departed back to the NBA, Carlos Arroyo led the club to the EuroChallenge (third tier, think Tyler/Ryan Olander) Championship- qualifying for the EuroCup (second tier, Jerome Dyson) in the process.

Here are some highlights from AI’s brief tenure in Turkey:

This season, the club competes in both the Turkish Basketball League (national) as well as the EuroCup (regional). Armstrong, along with Chris Lofton (Tennessee) and JaJuan Johnson (Purdue, Boston Celtics), have led Besiktas to 4th place in the TBL (10-5) and berth in the EuroCup playoffs. The club, 0-2 in Group M play, desperately needs a win tomorrow against Neptunas (Lithuania) to keep a potential Final Eight matchup with Jerome Dyson’s Sassari alive.

Armstrong is currently averaging 8 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block on the season. Though his statistics are down, he has made consistent appearances on the highlight reel, including this ridiculous put-back dunk:

Armstrong had some of his stronger games in the more competitive EuroCup, including 13 points/5 rebounds and the game-winning assist against Khimky (Russia) earlier in the year.

1:30, 1:45, 2:10 and 2:30 (assist)

In the TBL, Hilton dropped 16 points/4 rebounds on Turk Telekom back in October.

0:30, 1:10, 2:00

Jerome Dyson absolutely POSTERIZES defender (video)

This is what happens when 6’10 Italian center Tomas Ress tries to jump with Jerome Dyson:

euroleague.net

euroleague.net

Dyson has been on absolute fire the last 5 games in Italian Series A League play averaging a ridiculous 26.2 points, 6.6 assists, 6 rebounds and 2.5 steals for #2 Banco Di Sardegna. Sassari competes in both the Italian Series A League (national) as well as the EuroCup (regional). The club also competed in the Euroleague (Euro NBA, think Niels Giffey/Marcus Williams) earlier in the season but failed to reach the Top 16. They were booted into the Top 32 of the EuroCup (one level down) to play for a chance at the EuroCup crown and an automatic bid back to the Euroleague for next season. Essentially, the EuroCup (and lesser regional leagues) is a chance for clubs without the necessary accolades to qualify for Euroleague play automatically, similar to how conference tournament’s work with March Madness. European clubs rely heavily on sponsors who rely heavily on exposure, better leagues = more exposure = more money = better players.

To gauge the scope of the EuroCup, here is a map of all participating clubs (minus late additions):

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Dyson is having a career year for Sassari with his 18.5 points per game, 4.8 assists per game and 2.3 steals per game good for 4th, 4th and 1st respectively in Series A play. On January 11th, Dyson dropped 30 points (6-10, 3P), dished out 8 assists and added 4 steals. In fact, his DEEP 3’s in the last two minutes led Sassari to the come-from-behind victory. Follow the link below for highlights (shots come at 2 minute mark):

http://video.gazzetta.it/video-embed/61232c74-9915-11e4-a044-3f0f5e5c1c1c

Sassari returns to action January 20th when they battle Buducnost (Montenegro) in EuroCup play. The matchup pits Dyson against former Big East standout Omar Cook (St. John’s). Dyson and his squad will need to finish in the top two of Group H to advance to the Final Eight – they currently sit at 3rd with a record of 1-1. Other Group H members include Buducnost, Canaria (Spain), and Banvit (Turkey).

We always knew Dyson could make plays like this…

…now he is making winning plays.

 

Olander brothers reunited in Lithuania

Bc_šiauliai_logo_2

Ryan Olander has joined brother Tyler in Lithuania, agreeing to terms with BC Siauliai on a one year deal. Olander spent last season with Lietkabelis ( of the LKL/Baltic League), averaging 11 points/6 rebounds en route to his first LKL All Star game selection. In 13 Baltic League games, Olander averaged 8 points/6 rebounds and was named Eurobasket.com All-Baltic League Honorable Mention. Olander gives the club a versatile big man who can shoot from the outside yet still provide strength underneath, allowing Tyler to be used on the perimeter as a stretch power forward.

Siauliai won the Baltic League (BBL)  in 2014 and will compete this season in the LKL, BBL as well as Group H of the EuroChallenge. For those unfamiliar, EuroChallenge is the third tier men’s professional club competition in Europe, only behind EuroCup and Euroleague (Europe’s NBA)- all under the umbrella of FIBA Europe. 32 teams from 20 countries are divided into 8 regular season round robin groups based on geography. Other Group H members include Enisey (Russia), Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus) and Usak (Turkey).  The two finalists at the end of each season get promoted to the EuroCup, where clubs can then vie for a Euroleague promotion.

Best of luck to Ryan and Tyler and stay tuned for the latest from Lithuania…

 

UCONN Where Are They Now: Josh Boone/Hilton Armstrong

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     If JR Smith is the only recognizable face in the picture above, do not be alarmed, even die hard UCONN fans would have a hard time identifying Josh Boone without his signature braids popularized during his days of dominating the Big East paint. Boone shed his cornrows back in 2010 following a move to China for the sheer hassle of finding someone to do them. The 23rd overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, Boone put together four solid seasons with the Nets -including a 2007-08 season that saw him average 8 points/7 rebounds in 53 starts- before signing with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).

     Boone averaged double doubles in both his seasons in China- quite the accomplishment considering he played the 2012 season with JR Smith as his American counterpart (Smith averaged 35ppg with four 50+) and could only suit up for half the game*. He was interviewed in 2011 by ESPN for advice during the heat of the lock out as NBA players mulled overseas options- the article can be found below. Sifting through Golden Duck highlights uncovered some interesting matchups, notably a December 2011 game against the Beijing Ducks that featured JR vs Stephon Marbury and Josh Boone vs Randolph Morris (Kentucky→NYK). If you thought JR’s shot selection is awful now- check out these highlights:

     At 28 Boone decided to make his comeback to the NBA, signing with the Iowa Energy but suffering a season-ending knee injury just 2 games into the season. He tried his luck with the Washington Wizards this summer but the two mutually parted ways after the injury swelled up, deciding Boone needed time to heal the injured knee. Boone was quoted following camp,

“I just have to work harder, the NBA is all about who works the hardest. Everybody in the NBA can play and there are a ton of guys who aren’t in the NBA that can play. I saw that from going overseas. It’s just a matter of getting in the right situation and making sure you stick. Get better every game. Play defense hard as I can.”

          Working in Boone’s favor is his defensive prowess and status as a knowledgeable veteran, two desirable commodities in a center. Hopefully 2014 brings health and another NBA opportunity to one of the most physically imposing big men ever to play for the Huskies.

JR oops to Boone in China (sorry for the low quality)

*CBA allows only two import players per team and restricts the total amount of time they can be on the court to 75% of the game. Analyzing the minutes distribution for a few teams showed big men (Boone) would typically sit out the entire first half then play all the 3rd/4th while guards/wings (JR) played the duration of the game.

http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/31231/dwight-howard-to-china-josh-boones-scouting-report

Hilton

     Hilton Armstrong’s road to NBA lottery pick did not follow the typical trajectory of other notable UCONN big men. In fact, chants of “Trans-fer Hil-ton” rang out each time he stepped on the court during a miserable freshman-junior years in Storrs which saw him average under 4 points per game. His senior season marked one of the biggest transformations, possibly in UCONN history, as Hilton garnered Big East Defensive POY award and was selected by the New Orleans Hornets with the 12th overall pick in 2006. Armstrong was projected to be an immediate contributor for the Hornets however his progression was stymied when the team traded for All-Star center Tyson Chandler. Fighting for minutes with an All NBA Defensive player, Armstrong’s production was limited and he was dealt to the Kings in 2010. Armstrong spent the next few years bouncing around to various NBA teams featuring stints with the aforementioned Kings, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards and finally the Atlanta Hawks posting career averages of 3.2ppg and 2.6rpg AND ONE BIG STEAL (below) in 265 games.

             Hilton took his talents/trickery across the pond for the 2011-12 season signing with Tony Parker’s ASVEL of the French Pro Series A League/Eurocup. Hilton averaged 10 points/7 rebounds playing alongside Parker, the owner of the club who signed himself to a $2,000/month contract during the NBA lock out. The first minute of the clip below shows Armstrong’s highlights in France -Parker to Armstrong connection at the 1 minute mark-continue watching for Parker’s top plays.

After just one season in France, Hilton again jumped all over the world spending time with Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos, Santa Cruz Warriors (D-League), Changsha Bank (China), Indiana Pacers and finally finishing the 2012-13 season with Santa Cruz. Armstrong’s strong play led him to receive Honorable Mention All-NBA D-League and Second Team All-NBA D-League Defensive team honors. 2013-2014 has been no different for Hilton as he heads the Santa Cruz frontline putting up numbers of 15 points/7 rebounds/3 blocks. In December he became the 19th D-League call-up in Golden State history providing much needed front court depth to a Warriors team plagued by injury. Back in the D-League Hilton has been selected to represent Santa Cruz at the 2014 NBA D-League All-Star game in New Orleans. The game will be aired live on NBA TV at 3pm tomorrow February 15th. If NBA TV is not available, see what you are missing with Armstrong’s D-League highlights below (my personal favorite is the second dunk over Fab Melo)…