10 stars of the regular season

After six months and 180 games, the 2012/13 VTB United League regular season has come to an end. The competition did not disappoint this year and VTB-League.com has put together a recap showcasing the biggest stars from the regular season.

Viktor Khryapa


Viktor Khryapa recorded the first triple-double in VTB United League history on January 20 against VEF. In just 27 minutes on the court, Khryapa scored 10 points, dished out 10 assists and pulled down 13 rebounds. That performance alone guaranteed CSKA’s 31-year-old Russian captain a place in any season-end recap.

But Khryapa played an even bigger role for his team over the course of the season. In 15 appearances, he averaged a 16.3 efficiency rating, 6th-best in the league, despite scoring just 8.9 points per game. Khryapa boasts a multi-faceted game, more than able to thread passes to open teammates, knock down a shot from the perimeter or drive to the basket for a dunk.

CSKA came into the season as one of the top title contenders and took care of business during the regular season, finishing in 2nd place in Group B. You can bet that Khryapa and his teammates are set on making a run at the championship come playoff time.

Paul Davis


American center Paul Davis only averaged 18 minutes per game in the VTB United League, but that was all he needed to contend for MVP honors and a place on the VTB United League symbolic starting five. Paul made the game look easy in 12 appearances for Khimki Moscow Region. His mobility, footwork, and activity on the glass often proved a headache for VTB United League frontcourts.

Davis’s game against Kalev on February 18 is a perfect example of his importance for Khimki. Moscow Region trailed at halftime, 31-24, while Davis sat on the bench. After the break, Rimas Kurtinaitis finally inserted the 211-cm center into the game... three minutes later, the Yellow-Blues had taken the lead. Davis scored, rebounded and attracted the attention of the Estonian defense, allowing his teammates to open up the game. One can only feel sympathy for Khimki’s playoff opponents – Paul is sure to play more than 18 minutes per game in May.

Nicholas Calathes


Lokomotiv-Kuban point guard Nicholas Calathes made an impressive start to the season, even finishing first in MVP fan voting. He drove Krasnodar all year, leading the team in minutes, points, assists, steals and efficiency rating. Calathes, in his first season with Lokomotiv-Kuban, has made his mark on the club. The 24-year-old Greek-American has stamina, persistence and determination to win. Playing against Neptunas on December 2, Calathes set a new VTB United League record, collecting 13 assists in Lokomotiv’s 95-83 win. The fiery playmaker almost certainly has more to prove in the playoffs.

Chuck Eidson


Chuck Eidson earned Star of the Game status seven times during the regular season in VTB-League.com game recaps. The 32-year-old American was unstoppable some days, though he also disappeared at times on the court. Overall, Eidson consistently came through for UNICS, averaging 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game as the team closed the season on a six-game winning streak to take 2nd place in Group A.

Ksistof Lavrinovic


Zalgiris ended the regular season with the best record in the VTB United League and nearly tied CSKA’s record 12-game winning streak from last season. Kaunas has a tremendous frontcourt, which often led the team to victory. Ksistof Lavrinovic, meanwhile, is the undisputed leader amongst the Zalgiris big men, averaging a team-high 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 13.1 efficiency rating per game.

Ksistof is dangerous anywhere on the court. He can stretch the defense at the perimeter and bang down low. His rugged defense and rebounding, as well as leadership skills, make for a very well-rounded center. Lavrinovic has stuck with his team off the court, too. Despite Zalgiris’s financial trouble and several lucrative offers to switch teams, Ksistof will remain with the club until the end of the season. With the 33-year-old Lithuanian big man suiting up for Kaunas, Zalgiris is a top contender for the VTB United League championship.

Sergei Bazarevich


Krasnye Krylia has been the biggest surprise of the season. Though individual players have been excellent – Chester Simmons, Aaron Miles, Andre Smith – this team’s biggest asset is its coach, Sergei Bazarevich.

Let’s rewind, though, for a moment. Krasnye Krylia lost unexpectedly at home to Astana on October 22. The team, including Bazarevich, came under heavy criticism and rumors began to circulate that the coach might be fired. Krylia, however, went on to win nine straight across all competitions and finished the regular season strong. The team even had a chance to pip Khimki to 2nd place in Group A and a first-round playoff bye, but lost in the final seconds of the final regular-season game. Now the team faces Triumph in the first round. Krasnye Krylia has also advanced to the Final Four in the Russian Cup and EuroChallenge.

Sergei Bazarevich is the man behind Samara’s success. He’s instilled an aggressive, easily recognizable style of play. Even without a traditional center, Krasnye Krylia consistently attacks the paint, whether on fast breaks or by driving to the basket. After a miss, rather than backpedal on defense, the team’s athletic forwards fight for offensive rebounds and easy putbacks. When the other team does have the ball, Krylia plays pressure defense in order to disrupt the opponent’s offense. Bazarevich’s methods have produced results… It’s no exaggeration to say that the League now boasts another distinctive, self-sustaining team.

Matteo Boniciolli


Astana (Kazakhstan) also made great strides this season, in large part thanks to its coach. The Yellow-Blues made solid free-agent acquisitions during the offseason and continued to strengthen the roster over the winter. The team does lack leadership, however, given the significant turnover. Much of the credit should go to Matteo Boniciolli, who led the team to the playoffs in its second season in the League. The players respect him and give maximum effort and he’s created a balanced, persistent team in return. Most impressively, Astana sealed its playoff spot at the expense of last season’s playoff semifinalist, Lietuvos Rytas.

Astana can still progress, but the team’s improvement already is undeniable. Boniciolli deservedly takes his place among the regular season stars.

Sergey Karasev


Sergey Karasev is one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in European basketball and the future of the Russian national team. In his third professional season, the 19-year-old wunderkind took on a leading role for Triumph, which earned a postseason berth in its first year in the League. Karasev (his father, Vasily, is the Triumph coach) played with confidence and poise well beyond his years. He led the team in scoring at 16.3 points per game, 4th overall in the League. Karasev, not surprisingly, recently received the Young Player of the Year award.

Sergey recently announced that he will be entering the NBA Draft in June. He may very well head overseas this summer to ply his trade in the world’s strongest basketball league. Don’t forget, though, that the guard’s career began in the VTB United League.

Darius Songaila


The reigning Ukrainian champions invested heavily in the offseason and were tipped to be among the League’s most-improved teams. Despite an awful 4-8 start to the season, the team ended the season at 9-9, just enough to finish in the top six in Group A. There were several reasons for the strong finish. Donetsk changed coaches, which resulted in much more effective offense. The calendar was also kind to the Tigers down the stretch, as they played six of their last seven games at home. Finally, D’or Fischer, Ramel Curry and Darius Songaila finished the season strong.

While Fischer and Curry’s play improved in the final games of the regular season, Songaila simply continued to play at the same impressive level he had all season long. He led Donetsk in scoring, rebounding and efficiency rating during the regular season and will try to help Donetsk continue its current good form in a difficult first-round playoff series against Lokomotiv-Kuban.

E.J. Rowland


VEF Riga, along with Krasnye Krylia and Astana, made the biggest improvement this season and E.J. Rowland played an enormous role in that success. The Black-Whites’ point guard is very similar to the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose on the court. Though short by basketball standards, Rowland’s explosive energy tires out opponents over 40 minutes. He’s the focal point of the VEF offense – his sharp, acrobatic drives to the basket, fearless long-range shooting and capable passing terrorize VTB United League defenses night in and night out.

In addition to his productive play, the League’s leader scorer (he also finished first in efficiency rating) has ice water in his veins when the clock is ticking down. Rowland’s buzzer-beaters have saved the team on more than one occasion, helping Riga to 4th place in Group B this season. After averaging 17.1 points, 5.9 assists, 6.1 rebounds, 2.0 steals and a 20.8 efficiency rating per game, the 30-year-old American was named VTB United League MVP.