UConn Abroad Recap: Marcus Williams beats Niels Giffey; Dyson leads Sassari

EuroLeague

Marcus Williams had 7 points and a game-high 10 assists leading #7 Crvena Zvezda to a 86-69 Top 16 victory over Niels Giffey and #5 ALBA Berlin. Giffey, battling foul trouble, added 3 points and 3 rebounds for the German club. In typical fashion, many of Williams dimes were of the highlight variety, including a pair of nifty no-looks:

With the win, #7 Crvena moves out of last place and ALBA falls into a tie for #5. Both clubs qualified for the Top 16 with impressive EuroLeague regular seasons but have struggled thus far. The Top 16 divides qualifying clubs from the regular season into two Groups -E and F- for a 14 game round-robin season. In order to advance to the next round of play, ALBA and Crvena must finish among the top four seeds in Group E. The two will rematch at the end of March, in a game that could decide postseason fate.

It was a big week for Williams across the board as his 19 point/6 assist effort led #1 Crvena to a thrilling 1 point victory over #2 Buducnost (Montenegro) in the Adriatic League. The game featured two former elite Big East point guards as Williams faced off against Omar Cook of St. John’s. See highlights below:

EuroCup

One tier down, in EuroCup play, it was Jerome Dyson’s turn to beat up on Cook, as his 11 points/7 assists helped Sassari move into #2 in Group H with a win over Buducnost. Remember, clubs play in multiple leagues so there is much crossover, especially during the postseason.

In Italian Series A play, Dyson’s 17 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists kept Sassari at #4 with just over 10 games remaining.

In Group M play, Hilton Armstrong and Besiktas (Turkey) moved to #2 with a victory over Neptunas (Lithuania). Through three quarters, Armstrong had 8 points/5 rebounds/3 blocks before leaving the game with an ankle injury. He is expected to miss only a week. Besiktas also announced the signing of former Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds.

Both clubs return to action next week needing a win to advance to the next stage, the EuroCup Final Eight.

 

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

Google Hangout with Charlie Villanueva

I did my first Google Hangout yesterday with former UConn National Champion and 9 year NBA vet Charlie Villanueva of the Dallas Mavericks. Villanueva was a McDonald’s All-American out of Blair Academy (NJ), leading Blair to 3 straight Mid-Atlantic Prep League Tournament Championships. As a freshman, Charlie was a key contributor to the 2004 UConn National Championship team averaging 8 points/5 rebounds. That team, arguably the most talented team in UConn history, included future NBA players Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Josh Boone, Marcus Williams and Hilton Armstrong. Following a solid sophomore campaign, Charlie declared for the 2005 NBA Draft where he was taken 7th overall by the Toronto Raptors.

My Questions

4:15- Who had a more impressive championship run, Kemba or Shabazz?

19:25- Imagine a Final Four of all UConn Championship teams- who wins?

El-Amin to Wolf: UConn in Europe 2014-2015

Here is an alphabetical list of former UConn players currently abroad. Most leagues are already underway and the remainder tip off this week. Check back for weekly updates on your favorite former Huskies. The list will be updated as more information becomes available.

Khalid El-Amin

Team: Goettingen, Germany

Top League: BBL (German National League)

Notable American teammates: Jason Clark (Georgetown), Raymar Morgan (Michigan State)

Hilton Armstrong

Team: Besiktas, Turkey

Top League: TBL (Turkish National League)

Notable American teammates: JaJuan Johnson (Purdue/Boston Celtics), Chris Lofton (Tennessee) 

Josh Boone

Team: Al Manama, Bahrain

Top League: Bahrain Premier League

Notable American teammates: none

Deandre Daniels

Team: Perth Wildcats, Australia

Top League: National Basketball League

Notable American teammates: Jermaine Beal (Vanderbilt)

Jerome Dyson

Team: Banco Di Sardegna

Top League: Italian Series A

Notable American teammates: Rakim Sanders (BC/Fairfield)

Niels Giffey

Team: ALBA Berlin, Germany

Top League: Euroleague

Notable American teammates: Reggie Redding (Villanova), Clifford Hammonds (Clemson)

Lasan Kromah

Team: ALBA Fehervar, Hungary

Top League: Hungary A Division

Notable American teammates: Cleveland Melvin (Depaul)

Tyler Olander

Team: Siauliai, Lithuania

Top League: EuroChallenge

Notable American teammates: Ryan Olander (Fairfield)

Alex Oriakhi

Team: Pieno Zvaigzdes, Lithuania

Top League: Baltic Basketball League

Notable American teammates: none

Marcus Williams

Team: Crvena Zvezda, Serbia

Top League: KLS (Serbian National League)

Notable American teammates: Charles Jenkins (Hofstra)

Enosch Wolf

Team: VFL Kirchheim Knights, Germany

Top League: Germany Pro A Division

Notable American teammates: none

Unavailable:

Rashad Anderson, Denham Brown, Taliek Brown, Ater Majok, Stanley Robinson

Notes:

Roscoe Smith signed to the Los Angeles Lakers practice squad on September 24th. With three veteran forwards and newcomer Julius Randle, Smith will have a hard time making the final NBA roster but could be kept with the teams D-League affiliate.

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)…