BC Siauliai off to best start in EuroChallenge history

bcsiauliai.lt

BC Siauliai finds themselves an even 6-6 entering Round 13 of the LKL season. After jumping out to a 4-2 start, Siauliai lost four in a row to close October. One particularly notable game came on October 9th against Alex Oriakhi’s club, Zvaigzdes, in a game that pit two former UConn champions against one another. Tyler Olander not only got the better of the matchup -14 points to Oriakhi’s 6- but Siauliai came away with the 13 point victory. You can view the battle here. November has proven promising thus far for the club with two double digit wins over #10 Nevezis and #8 Tonybet. Here are the twin towers official stat line through 12 LKL games:

Player G MIN FG-FGA FG% REB BL PTS EFF
R. Olander 12 17.6 36-73 49% 4.0 0.5 8.1 7.6
T. Olander 12 12.7 18-30 60% 2.3 0.1 5.0 5.1

EuroChallenge

November also marks the start of the EuroChallenge season. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, EuroChallenge is the third tier men’s professional club competition in Europe. 32 teams from 20 countries are divided into 8 regular season round robin groups based on geography. Siauliai competes in Group H of the EuroChallenge along with 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 compete for a EuroLeague promotion (European NBA). Strong performance in the EuroChallenge attracts sponsors, providing clubs with financial means to attract the top international players.

Siauliai has started EuroChallenge round robin play a perfect 2-0, largely in part to the play of the twin towers. Ryan Olander leads the team in scoring at 19.5 while Tyler leads in rebounding at 5 per game. Worth mentioning- Ryan’s 76% from the field is good for third in the entire EuroChallenge. Here is a full stat line from the first two games:

Player G MIN FG-FGA FG% REB BL PTS EFF
R. Olander 2 25.5 19-24 79% 3.5 0.5 19.5 16
T. Olander 2 12.5 3-3 100% 5.0 0.0 5.5 7.5

Siauliai barely survived a November 4th contest against Enisey to open round robin play in Lithuania. Up eight with 4 minutes left, Enisey stormed back to tie the game with 30 seconds on the clock. Luckily, American Jonathan Lee (Northeastern) saved the day for the home team knocking down the go-ahead foul shot with 17 seconds remaining. Tyler Olander scored 5 of his 6 points in the fourth quarter and Ryan Olander poured in 16 points on 8-10 shooting in the 93-92 victory.

Watch the full game here.

Next, Siauliai traveled to Belarus for a matchup with fellow Group H member Tsmoki-Minsk. Ryan Olander contributed a game high 23 points on 11-14 shooting and Tyler Olander added 5 rebounds en route to a 94-91 win. As in any league at any level, road wins are especially impressive and can make all the difference come tournament time.

Watch the full game here.

The twin towers return to action tomorrow when they take on Usak-Sportif in Turkey. Usak is 1-1 in Group H play with a home win over Minsk followed by an 18 point blowout loss at the hands of Enisey. They are led by Americans Chris Warren (Mississippi), Courtney Fells (NC State) and Justin Carter (Creighton).  Siauliai is shooting a ridiculous 50% from behind the arc in EuroChallenge play and will look to add to their best start in history.

You can watch the game live on the FIBA Youtube channel at 6:30PM: https://www.youtube.com/FIBA

Check back for weekly updates…

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.

Oriakhi signs with Pieno Zvaigzdes in Lithuania

AP

AP

2011 National Champion Alex Oriakhi has signed with Pieno Zvaigzdes of the Lithuanian National League (LKL) and Baltic Basketball League (BBL). Last season, Zvaigzdes advanced to the quarterfinals of both the LKL and BBL before eventually falling short. Notable Americans who have suited up for Zvaigzdes in the past include Trevon Hughes (Wisconsin), Tyrell Biggs (Pittsburgh) and most recently Derrick Caracter (LA Lakers). Oriakhi bounced all over the world during the 2013-14 campaign with stints in France, Israel and Pennsylvania before eventually settling with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA D-League where he averaged 7 points/6 rebounds in 43 games. Oriakhi will face former teammate Tyler Olander at a date TBD when the schedule is announced.

 

Twin Towers lead Siauliai

Twin Towers Ryan and Tyler Olander led Siauliai past second division Delikatesas, 89-68, in an exhibition tune-up. If I am translating the game summary correctly, Tyler had 15 points and 7 rebounds in 21 minutes, shooting 5-7 from the field, 1-2 from deep and 2-2 from the free throw line. Ryan added 6 points for the victors. American Jonathan Lee (Northeastern) led the club with 19 points in just 18 minutes of action. Pictures below:

bcsiauliai.lt

bcsiauliai.lt

bcsiauliai.lt

bcsiauliai.lt

bcsiauliai.lt

bcsiauliai.lt

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…

 

Tyler Olander signs in Lithuania

UCONN hotel post Championship

UCONN hotel post Championship in Dallas

Tyler Olander has joined his older brother in Lithuania, signing with BC Siauliai of the Lithuanian National League (LKL). Siauliai won the 2014 Baltic Basketball League (BBL) title this past season led by former Georgia Bulldog/Los Angeles Clipper Travis Leslie and former Fairfield guard Derek Needham. This season, Siauliai will compete in the EuroChallenge featuring teams from across Europe including Enel Brindisi, Jerome Dyson’s former club. Although Olander’s UCONN statistics do not stand out (2.8ppg/2.6rpg in 135 games), his willingness to play out of position resulted in two National Championships during his tenure. In doing so, he became only the third player in the storied history of UCONN men’s basketball to win multiple National Championships. In Europe, Olander will be used on the perimeter as a stretch 4- much more conducive to his style of play. Congratulations to Tyler and best of luck in Lithuania next season.

A Look Back At MSG

KO cuts down net

Sweet 16 Recap

I took the 2pm express train from Darien to a Grand Central Station packed with UCONN fans. As early as 4pm there was a definite buzz in the city and you could hear the chants ring out on the walk down 7th.  Inside, the Garden didn’t feel like 40% UCONN fans, not to say it didn’t get loud but Virginia orange was the dominant color in my opinion. Not say UCONN’s presence wasn’t felt- we dominated section 109 behind the Husky bench from family members in the first few rows up to the student section in 209.  As for the game, Deandre Daniels played like a man and we benefited, plain and simple. Shabazz came out and knocked down 4 early three’s but instead of focusing solely on his hot hand, was able to get Deandre into the flow of the game. Niels provided relief on the glass with 7 rebounds and knocked down a Rashad Anderson dagger with two minutes remaining for a 7 point advantage. Terrence Samuel once again stepped up with quality minutes and clutch free throws in his return to NYC.

Defensively, we were able to control Deandre Kane, forcing him into a 6-18 night. Our rotation of guards were able to tire Kane-who played the entire 40 minutes- evidenced by his 2-9 performance from the line (64% on the season, 5-7 vs UNC). Big 12 POY Melvin Ejim was also frustrated into a 3-13 night. Hogue once again played like a monster finishing with 34 points and 6 rebounds, in part perhaps to the defensive focus on Kane/Ejim. Hogue couldn’t beat us single handedly- Kane/Ejim were the players we had to shut down and we went out and shut them down. Another key to the game was UCONN’s superiority at the foul line. UCONN shot 91% (20-22) while Iowa State combined to go 40% (6-15). 5 of those 9 misses make up the difference in the game. Free throws win games and this team makes free throws. We are gaining confidence as the stage gets brighter and need this trend to continue to advance.

Elite 8 Recap

Keys

Deandre Daniels

If Shabazz is Kemba then Deandre Daniels is Alex Oriakhi. Although their styles of play are drastically different, Daniels is providing the boost Alex gave during the stretch run in 2011. Rebounds. Big Blocks. Dunks inciting the crowd. Intensity. Deandre has emerged as the big man scoring option UCONN desperately needed. When Deandre is on, pressure is off Shabazz to score and he is able to get into his own flow and facilitate the game. One of the most telling signs occurred with 12 minutes to go in the second half. With a much smaller Appling defending, Deandre posted up and went to work delivering the bucket through contact for an AND-1. He did not hover around the three point line like earlier in the season but instead saw a mismatch and worked to exploit it. He wanted the ball and delivered, the sign of a scorer finally recognizing his abilities. Watch out Florida.

Atmosphere

In 10 years of attending UCONN games at MSG, this is the first time in my life UCONN controlled the Garden. As I walked towards the Garden Sunday afternoon, UCONN chants rang out far before 34th and 7th. This was one of the best college games I have ever attended solely due to atmosphere. The Garden was electric and filled with Husky Blue. You could tell from the first possession of the game UCONN was in the building. Michigan State’s Adreian Payne could not get past Husky big Philip Nolan who ultimately forced the star forward to travel accompanied by an immediate uproar from UCONN Country. Michigan State could not get comfortable, UCONN fed off the energy and MSG was capable of willing the Huskies to victory. At times it felt like Michigan State was intimidated by the environment and it caused them to stray from their game-plan. In a game of runs, UCONN jumped out to a 12-2 lead largely due to crowd energy. Boat set the tone defensively from the start with tight on ball pressure forcing Michigan State turnovers. Niels break away dunk with 8 minutes left set the crowd into a frenzy and the noise never ceased. Nolan’s dunk to close the game was the second loudest I’ve ever heard a UCONN crowd at the Garden (Kemba’s stepback). Dallas is much farther than New York but hopefully UCONN can ride the momentum created at MSG on Sunday afternoon.

Defense

Defense wins the big games and UCONN brought it on the defensive end Sunday. Credit Philip Nolan/Amida Brimah for their efforts on MSU big man Adreian Payne. A 6’10 240 pound bruiser, UCONN was able to body Payne and keep him floating around the perimeter. As a result, Payne settled for ten 3 pointers as opposed to establishing an inside game. In fact, we held a much larger, more physical Michigan State team to only 6 points in the paint. Six points in the paint were the second fewest for any team in the past five NCAA tournaments. How did we do it? Toughness. Determination. Team Defense. UCONN wanted it more and it translated on the court. From Nolan’s inital stop to Boat/Bazz defensive pressure in the opening minutes, we brought it. Instead of answering with physical play, MSU settled for jump shots which is a testament to UCONN’s defense. Not only do our players believe no one will get by them but now opposing players are starting to believe it.

Free Throws

UCONN shot 95% (21-22) from the line.

X Factors

Role Players

Nolan came up huge. Giffey did not shoot well but crashed the boards. Boat’s defensive tenacity got the crowd involved early. Brimah gave quality minutes. Different players are stepping up when their name is called. It doesn’t matter who it comes from we just need to piece it together each game.

Confidence

Middle of the season this game would have gone much differently. Nolan would not have stopped Payne. Deandre would not call for the ball in the post. Giffey would not recover from early missed shots. Why the different outcome? CONFIDENCE. UCONN has it and it’s not going away.

Notes

To anyone feeling sorry for Michigan State having to play in UCONN’s backyard, don’t be. The 2009 Final Four against UCONN in Detroit was a home game for MSU as they packed Ford Field with green and white. Justice has been served.

A big thanks to Tyler Olander for tickets to both games making this all possible.

 

A Look Back at Buffalo

photo

UCONN-St Joe’s

 

I drove up to Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament games at the First Niagara Center, home of the Sabres. Here is what I took away from the 1st and 2nd rounds:

ROLE PLAYERS EMERGENCE

 We made up a 10 point first half deficit with Shabazz on the bench in foul trouble. Down 19-9 , it would have been easy to fall apart with the undeniable leader sidelined but instead, we came together. Terrence and Niels combined for 15 points/12 rebounds Saturday and Brimah provided a game-saving AND-1 Thursday. In 2011 it was a Jeremy Lamb steal and dunk vs San Diego State, Shabazz free throws vs Kentucky and Scoe’s 4 blocks in the championship game. This is what has to happen to win championships. Role players need to make big plays. Shabazz is undoubtedly our Kemba but Kemba would be the first to say he needed a team making plays behind him. A knock on UCONN I’ve heard is we lack players outside Shabazz to make winning plays, not necessarily game winning shots but the small plays you need to make to win in March- get a big stop, snag a big rebound or finish a tough put-back in traffic- if Buffalo is any indication, our bench responded to the critics.

UCONN DEFENSE IS BACK

Nova shot only 35% for the game, 11-51 from the field and 11-31 from beyond the arc. Our guards had 10 steals led by Kromah’s 4 contributing to 16 Nova turnovers. Not only did we create turnovers but we capitalized as well outscoring Nova 20-4 in points off turnovers. Nova went 11:24 in the first half without a field goal. On Thursday, during the last St Joe’s possession of the first half active defense caused a shot clock violation giving us the last shot. The Huskies responded to a subpar beginning holding the Hawks to 25% on shots outside the paint after the first half.

ABILITY TO CLOSE OUT GAMES

The debacle that was inbounding the ball in the final minutes of the AAC tournament game against Cincinnati did not say much to our ability to close a game. Buffalo was different. Brimah came up with a huge AND-1 in the final minute against St Joe’s, the defense forced a shot clock violation and Shabazz/Niels executed a full court inbound play to near perfection before Shabazz took over in OT. Deandre put us ahead 37-36 with 14 minutes remaining against Nova and we controlled the remainder of the game never allowing the Wildcats to get closer than 5 points.

FREE THROWS

To complement my last bullet is the kryptonite to Calhoun Era teams: Free Throws.  UCONN shot 90% (18-20) vs St Joe’s and 79% (22-28) vs Nova. I hope this becomes a staple of the Ollie Era as it is certainly conducive to tournament wins. In the last 5 minutes of each game UCONN shot 90% , 15-16 in OT first round and 20-23 Saturday. Impressive given the added tournament pressure and location at a neutral site.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Not a great UCONN turnout- Buffalo is evidently not a popular spring break destination
  • Syracuse fans miss us, Requiem For The Big East must have struck a chord
  • It’s not spring in Buffalo either
  • Bars close at 2 in Boston/DC/SF but 4 in Buffalo, that will never make sense to me and it shouldn’t to you

 

CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR A LOOK FORWARD TO THE SWEET 16 AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

Thank you

“Two Final Fours, Champions in Maui, Winning the Big East Tournament and a National Championship: Few people witness in a lifetime what we were fortunate enough to experience in two years. Thank you UCONN Basketball for four of the most memorable years of my life.”

     This was my salute to UCONN basketball after working my last game senior year of college. It all went by in a blur yet I can still remember specific plays like they happened yesterday: Jeff Adrien’s dunk over two taller Michigan State defenders in the 2008 Final Four, Jeremy Lamb’s high flying dunk vs Columbia and of course Kemba Walker’s step back sinking Gary McGhee and Pitt. Although we still have the postseason tournaments to go, tonight brings the ceremonious culmination for the remaining 2010 recruiting class of Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier and Tyler Olander. For such an unheralded recruiting class they have certainly given fans some of the most memorable moments in UCONN history. Shabazz, up for every major award this season, deserves all the accolades he receives however it is important not to overlook the contributions of Tyler and Niels, especially during the 2011 National Championship season.

     Few remember the 14 points Giffey put up in the Maui Championship game against Kentucky to complement Kemba’s offensive attack, some probably had never heard of him until that game. Even less will remember Olander’s contribution in the 2011 Big East semifinals vs Syracuse. With Okwandu and Oriakhi in foul trouble, Olander came off the bench to provide 7 points/6 rebounds against imposing Cuse’ big man Rick Jackson. Tyler’s breakthrough performance came when UCONN needed it most and dramatically changed the course of the game for the Huskies. Add in Shabazz’ clutch free throws in the waning seconds against Kentucky in the Final Four and you have three clutch performances that embody what it means to play basketball at UCONN. Grit, perseverance, toughness and commitment. Amidst all the transfers, the uncertainties, the negative attention, the loss of a postseason- they never left. In a college basketball landscape that glorifies the one-and-done, this is what it means to be a team, to be a family. Anyone- fan, coach, player, staff- who was a part of the 2011 National Championship season knows this is the most important ingredient. To have not one but three leaders who understand this concept is a scary thought for opposing teams come tournament time.

     This night is especially gratifying for me as it marks the last Gampel home game for my childhood friend, Tyler. Growing up in Mansfield, we wandered UCONN’s campus as little kids among UCONN greats such as Rudy Gay, Emeka Okafor and RIP Hamilton. Exiting high school practices you could see Gampel looming in the distance however it felt light years away. When Tyler committed to UCONN I was excited, but didn’t grasp the importance of this connection. The first “aha” moment occurred in warm-ups of the first game in Maui. While serving drastically different capacities, we were both in Hawaii representing the program we had idolized as kids against the top teams in the country. Next came the Big East Tournament at MSG and National Championship in Houston. Old friends from DC to Texas to Florida came out to not only watch UCONN, but Tyler. It is one thing to share a National Championship with your college friends, however when you can share the experience with childhood friends and family- it makes it that much more special. Suddenly, Gampel didn’t seem so far away. Through the ups and downs, it has been a great run and I will never forget the memories. Thank you Tyler and best of luck to you, Niels and Shabazz in the future.