The NBA is experiencing a gilded age. Clubs have never been more valuable, television contracts have never been more lucrative, and investors are chomping at the bit to invest in the league. One of the reasons The Association has been turned into a license to print money is basketball is played all over the world, especially in Europe. Next to football, there's not a more popular team sport on the globe. It's interesting that on the world stage, basketball is second to football. Yet, in the United States, it's third behind American football and baseball, but well ahead of MLS (Major League Soccer). Just how popular is basketball overseas? How common is it for a European to buy Cleveland Cavaliers hoops tickets when they plan on traveling to the U.S. for example? Or how about to the Lakers or the Celtics? We know there are leagues in countries like Russia, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Yet, there are also leagues in countries like Slovenia, Luxemburg, Malta, and Montenegro. Those are four of the ten smallest countries in Europe. Slovenia, the largest of the four, is the size of New Jersey. Below, we take a closer look at three leagues that are currently helping to popularize the sport of basketball, and indirectly, its greatest league, the NBA.
The top league in Malta, a country about the size of Lubbock, Texas, is the Powerade League Bank of Valletta Division 1. Their playoffs are scheduled for late March. In one matchup, Cynergi will battle Floriana. In the other, Athleta takes on Bupa. While we're talking about Bupa, in their last regular season game they blew out Hibernians, 118 to 58. It reminds me of the time in November of 2015 when the Golden State Warriors crushed the Memphis Grizzlies, 119 to 69. Marko Todorovic is the league's top scorer. He averaged 27 points a game during the regular season.
You may have seen James Augustine, Kenny Boynton, Jeremy Evans, Cory Higgins, Robbie Hummel, Aaron Jackson, and Jacob Pullen play in college and/or the NBA. Now, you can see them play in Russia. The world's largest country's first tier of professional club basketball is the VTB United League. The league is sponsored by VTB Bank. The VTB was founded in 2008. Its goal is to bring the top clubs of Eastern and Northern Europe into one league. Right now, the VTB contains teams from Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, and Latvia. Nonetheless, if you win the VTB League you're known as basketball champions of Russia. The VTB's top team is PBC CSKA Moscow. They are nicknamed the 'Red Army.' CSKA players that have also laced them up in the NBA include Andrei Kirilenko, Darius Songaila, Gordan Giriek, Nenad Krsti, and Dragan Tarla. Iceland
Even Iceland, Europe's most sparsely populated country, has a professional b-ball league. The Premier League, officially called the Domino's League, after its sponsor Domino's Pizza, is highest level of competitive basketball played in the Nordic island nation. The league contains teams like Skallagrimur, Snfell, and Njarvik, as well as nine more. Don't worry, there are also teams without tongue-breaking names, like KR, KFI, and IR. My favorite team is Thor Thorl from orlakshoefn. Their starting shooting guard is American Tobin Carberry. He used to play for the LIU Post Pioneers. KR and IR are from Reykjavik. They are the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers of the Domino's League. Each team has won 15 league titles-tied for the most all-time. KR has won the last three championships. Prominent American hoopsters that have balled in Iceland's Premier League include Stew Johnson, J'Nathan Bullock, Justin Shouse, and Nick Bradford. Current American players include Atkinson Jeremy, Cedrick Bowen, Aaron Brown, and Myron Dempsey. The league was founded in 1951.
BOV League Division 1 Men 2017 Finals Series Game 3 BUPA Luxol 84 Floriana MCP Car Parks 71 (25-12, 22-16, 23-18, 14-25) Luxol: CJ Cordina 3, M. Mercieca 3, M. Sjoberg, J. Maistre, JP Schembri 17, K. Dimech 10, W. Ahlberg 3, P. Cumpstone 21, S. Deguara 27, S. Cappello Floriana: C. Patus 13, D. Schembri 25, S. Borg 11, D. Agius, N. Vasovic 6, C. Calleja, A. Axiaq 11, A. Micallef Trigona 2, N. Andrejevic 4 Referees: G. Barbara, E. Mangani, I. Simic BUPA Luxol made it a clean sweep in th... [read more]
BOV League Division 1 Men 2017 Finals Series Game 3
BUPA Luxol 84 Floriana MCP Car Parks 71 (25-12, 22-16, 23-18, 14-25) Luxol: CJ Cordina 3, M. Mercieca 3, M. Sjoberg, J. Maistre, JP Schembri 17, K. Dimech 10, W. Ahlberg 3, P. Cumpstone 21, S. Deguara 27, S. Cappello Floriana: C. Patus 13, D. Schembri 25, S. Borg 11, D. Agius, N. Vasovic 6, C. Calleja, A. Axiaq 11, A. Micallef Trigona 2, N. Andrejevic 4 Referees: G. Barbara, E. Mangani, I. Simic
BUPA Luxol made it a clean sweep in this year's BOV League play-off stage when after a 3-0 series won in the semi-final stage against Gzira Athleta, the violets continued with three straight wins in the finals series against Floriana MCP Car Parks.
Thus Luxol retuned on the champions podium for the thirteenth time in history, eight years after their last success in 2009 when that year they had beaten Sliema (today Gzira Athleta) 2-0 in the finals.
Continuing from their big win in game 2, Luxol were quick to establish a good early lead.
The first moments of this third final were a bit clumsy and the first bucket came after two minutes through a long distance shot from Jean-Paul Schembri (182-G-92).
Floriana, who were featuring in the third final series in the last five years managing also to win the league in 2013, did have a reply at this stage and a Sean Borg (177-PG-92) hoop followed by a Nikola Vasovic (180-PG-92) trey gave them the only lead in the game, 5-3, after three minutes.
In the next six minutes Luxol struck in a solid manner as a Keith Dimech (178-F-00) 3-pointer set them off on an important 19-2 run with Samuel Deguara (223-C-91) starting to contribute offensive points with a number of free throws and Schembri hitting two consecutive treys. The same player remained on the mark as he had another two treys at the start of the second period and then, with Deguara and Pierce Cumpstone (203-F-94, college: Stonehill) finding more space to bang in their points, Luxol extended their lead to 44-20 after 18 minutes of play.
Led positively by William Ahlberg, who had a quiet day in shooting but finished with six assists, Luxol searched to feed the ball more to Deguara after the interval and the local giant made use of his towering height and helped his side to have a further run, this time 9-0, as the margin increased to a maximum of 62-34 midway in the third quarter.
Deguara's fourth foul and subsequent bench time spurred Floriana to put in a reaction and led by Chad Patus (203-F-87, college: Belm.Abbey) and another offensive first rate performance from Dirk Schembri (193-F-85), they started somewhat gnawing slowly into the margin, especially when early in the last quarter the greens had their best moment in the game with 19-2 run that led them to a 65-74 score.
Deguara, who had re-entered in the game earlier, fouled out with three minutes to go and a Patus hoop had Floriana just 8 points away, 69-77.
Yet, with the greens failing to score in their next couple of plays, Pierce Cumpstone took all the responsibility and six personal points ascertained Luxol's third series victory and the thirteenth league crown.
At the end of the match, Bank of Valletta's Chief Officer Peter Perotti and the MBA president Paul Sultana, presented the winning medals to the BUPA Luxol players and technical staff, the Most Valuable Player award for the finals series to Samuel Deguara and finally handed the 2017 BOV League trophy to Luxol's captain Marco Mercieca (184-PG-83).
What they said:
Chad Patus (Floriana): 'the finals were an intense physical battle, just like we expected.
Luxol came really together well this season, especially after Samuel joined them.
Each of their players found a role that would, in some way, benefit the team and this made them a very difficult team to match up against.
We fought hard and I really want to thank my team mates for the effort but we should also tip our hats to Luxol who won the league.'
Marco Mercieca (Luxol): 'I am obviously thrilled to bring back the league to Luxol after a number of years.
It was a tough season, especially at the beginning, but following the arrival of Samuel, thanks to the efforts of the club president Edgar Caruana Montaldo, changed the team camaraderie completely and we had a great 2017 which was capped with a 6-0 playoff run.
I am glad to win my 5th personal league honour to end my career on a high.'
John Tabone (Luxol): 'this championship was a deserved achievement at the end, yet it was somewhat unexpected at the beginning of the season.
Our fortunes took a boost during Christmas when our President Edgar Caruana Montaldo managed to re-sign Samuel Deguara with the club. This was an important twist in our favour as it changed Luxol from a mediocre side trying to make the Play offs final 4 into a potential championship team. And what a Championship team it turned out to be. One of the most complete side we ever had at LUXOL. Every department was filled up to perfection.
With the trio of Deguara, Cumpstone and Ahlberg our game became more secure and spectacular, both on offence and most of all on defence. They guided us all throughout the Semis and more importantly during the finals.
Special mention to our captain Marco Mercieca for his continuous support, to Keith Dimech, our sixteen year old darling, who was a delight to watch as he committed himself to the team like a seasoned senior and to Jean-Paul Schembri who played an important role with his longrange shots. CJ Cordina, Stefan Cappello and Jamie Maistre Melillo were also important for our final success their commitment to the team and to our under 23 side which together with Keith Dimech and Pierce Cumpstone were also crowned the under 23 league Champions.'
BUPA Luxol were yesterday crowned Malta basketball champions for the 13th time in the club's history after defeating Floriana MCP Car Parks 84-71 to seal the final play-off series 3-0. This was Luxol's first championship crown after an absence of eight years. Samuel Deguara(223-C-91) was again the protagonist for John Tabone's Luxol yesterday as the towering pivot was the game's leading scorer with 27 points. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the final series. Courtesy of: timesofm... [read more]
BUPA Luxol were yesterday crowned Malta basketball champions for the 13th time in the club's history after defeating Floriana MCP Car Parks 84-71 to seal the final play-off series 3-0. This was Luxol's first championship crown after an absence of eight years. Samuel Deguara (223-C-91) was again the protagonist for John Tabone's Luxol yesterday as the towering pivot was the game's leading scorer with 27 points. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the final series. Courtesy of: timesofmalta.com
Bank of Valletta 2017 Finals Series Game 1 BUPA Luxol 80 Floriana MCP Car Parks 72 (16-18, 24-13, 20-15, 20-26) Luxol: CJ Cordina, M. Mercieca, M. Sjoberg, J. Maistre , JP Schembri 11, K. Dimech 7, W. Ahlberg 12, P. Cumpstone 16, S. Deguara 28, S. Cappello 6 Floriana: C. Patus 34, D. Schembri 11, S. Borg, D. Agius, N. Vasovic 18, C. Calleja 2, A. Axiaq 2, A. Micallef 5, N. Andrejevic Referees: B. Vassallo, E. Mangani, I. Simic BUPA Luxol continued on their play-offs winning streak by r... [read more]
Bank of Valletta 2017 Finals Series
BUPA Luxol 80 Floriana MCP Car Parks 72 (16-18, 24-13, 20-15, 20-26) Luxol: CJ Cordina, M. Mercieca, M. Sjoberg, J. Maistre , JP Schembri 11, K. Dimech 7, W. Ahlberg 12, P. Cumpstone 16, S. Deguara 28, S. Cappello 6 Floriana: C. Patus 34, D. Schembri 11, S. Borg, D. Agius, N. Vasovic 18, C. Calleja 2, A. Axiaq 2, A. Micallef 5, N. Andrejevic Referees: B. Vassallo, E. Mangani, I. Simic
BUPA Luxol continued on their play-offs winning streak by registering a win against Floriana in the first game of the 2017 BOV Finals.
The greens did try to offer a stern challenge and had their good moments in the game, although Luxol managed to open a considerable double digit lead in the third quarter, only for Floriana to pull up their socks once again and managing to come quite close.
The finals got off with sharp long distance shooting from Luxol as four different players managed to respectively score early from downtown. In fact, import player Pierce Cumpstone (203-F-94, college: Stonehill), local foreigner William Ahlberg (91) and local youngsters Jean-Paul Schembri (182-G-92) and Keith Dimech (178-F-00) were all precise from behind the 6.75 metre arc.
However Floriana were not overawed and were also notching up their early points led by Canadian Chad Patus (203-F-87, college: Belm.Abbey) who had eight personal points, including two treys. Shorly afterwards Floriana also managed to take the lead after a Dirk Schembri (193-F-85) close range basket and this marginal lead was maintained till the end of the first quarter, 18-16.
Luxol started winning the defensive boards in the second quarter and had their towering pivot Samuel Deguara (223-C-91) more in the action and they overturned the score with a 13-2 run. Despite Floriana's treys from Patus and Nikola Vasovic (180-PG-92), who both played all throughout the match, there was still a nine point margin between the two finalists at the interval, 40-31.
Luxol maintained their tempo when play resumed and led by their trio Cumpstone, Deguara and Ahlberg, who all were on the court for the whole 40 minutes of playing time, they had another positive run, this time 14-2, to open a hefty plus twenty lead, 54-33.
Floriana did not throw in the towel and they retorted with nine consecutive points, managing also to bring down some offensive rebounds and the margin came down to 60-46 at the end of the third quarter.
The last quarter produced the most points of the lot. Floriana put in a good effort to try to claw back into the game and were momentarily managing to find their way to the opponents' basket and an 11-2 mid-quarter run moved the greens closer to their adversaries. However Luxol did not let the game slip away and obtained some important hoops and controlled the final moments of the game.
Game 2 of this best-of-five Finals series will be played tomorrow at 7.30pm.
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