#1. This week's number one is an international point guard Walter Hodge (183-86, college: Florida, currently plays in Eurocup), who plays in Poland. He could not help Stelmet ZG (1-2) in their last game on Wednesday. Despite Hodge's good performance the third-placed Stelmet ZG was badly defeated 89-69 at home by the second-ranked Spartak St.Petersburg in the group K of Eurocup.
He was the second best scorer with 13 points. Hodge also added 6 assists.
There are only three games left until the end of the Eurocup Top 16. So now every game will be critical.
Hodge is currently first on the list of top scorers.
He has individually a very good season with high stats. Hodge averages: 20.6ppg, 1.7rpg, 5.2apg, 2FGP: 53.8%, 3FGP: 54.3%(19-35).
He has a dual citizenship: U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rican.
Hodge is currently a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior national team.
#2. Second place goes to former international center Frank Elegar (208-86, college: Drexel, currently plays in Baltic League). He led his Estonian team Kalev/Cramo to an easy victory against the closely-ranked Jelgava (0-2) crushing them 105-65 in the Baltic League on Wednesday night.
Elegar had a double-double by scoring 18 points and getting 11 rebounds. He also added 3 blocks in 27 minutes.
BC Kalev/Cramo Tallinn (2-0) is placed second in group F.
There are only four games left until the end of the Baltic League Top 16. So now every game is very crucial.
Elegar has relatively good stats this year: 13.1ppg, 8.7rpg, 1.4bpg, 1.3spg, 2FGP: 60.3%(35-58) and FT: 55.0% in the seven games he played so far.
He played for the U.S. Virgin Islands national team in 2010.
#3. The U.S. Virgin Islands player who performed third best last week abroad was an international power forward Gregory Washington (208-84, college: Hofstra, currently plays in Denmark). Washington was the major contributor in Svendborg's victory against the closely-ranked Horsholm (8-7) 85-77 in the Danish Ligaen in Wednesday night's game.
He recorded a double-double by scoring 21 points and getting 11 rebounds. Washington also added 3 blocks; quite an impressive performance considering it's only his second season in pro basketball. It was the game of the round between two top 4 ranked teams. Svendborg Rabbits (18-2) is placed first in the Ligaen.
It was his team's third consecutive victory in a row.
It's Washington's first year with the team.
Washington is currently fifth on the league's list of best rebounders and also on the list of best blockers (first place).
This season he has very high stats. Washington averages: 15.3ppg, 8.3rpg, 1.2apg, 2.7bpg, 2FGP: 62.3%(129-207), 3FGP: 24.3% and FT: 58.8%.
He is also a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior national team.
#4. Forward Ivan Aska (200-90, college: Murray St., currently plays in Belgium) led Leuven Bears to a 1-point victory over the closely-ranked Antwerp Giants (6-7) 78-77 in the Belgian Ethias League last Saturday.
Aska was MVP of the game. He recorded 21 points in 32 minutes; not bad, considering it's only Aska's third season in pro basketball. Stella Artois Leuven Bears (4-9) is placed second from the bottom (#7) in the Ethias League.
They ended the series of four consecutive loses.
Aska is currently seventh on the league's list of best rebounders with 6.5rpg.
This year he also averages: 14.5ppg, 1.8apg and 1.5spg in the 13 games.
Aska is another player who holds two passports: U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rican.
He is also U.S. Virgin Islands national team player.
#5. Former international forward Cuthbert Victor (197-83, college: Murray St., currently plays in France) contributed to a Le Mans' victory against the league outsider Boulazac Basket (4-12) 77-68 in the French ProA on Saturday night.
Victor recorded 6 points.
Le Mans Sarthe Basket (11-5) is placed second in the ProA.
It was his team's fourth consecutive victory in a row.
It's Victor's first season with the team.
His overall stats this year are: 9.4ppg, 3.4rpg and 2.6apg.
Victor used to play for the U.S. Virgin Islands national team
two years ago.
The list of other players, who all have U.S. Virgin Islands passport but never been selected to any of U.S. Virgin Islands national teams:
#1. Experienced Tim Duncan (211-F/C-76, college: Wake Forest, currently plays in NBA) led San Antonio Spurs to a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers (17-25) 90-85 in the NBA in Monday night's game.
He was MVP of the game. Duncan had a double-double by scoring 24 points and getting 17 rebounds. He also added 5 assists in 34 minutes.
The San Antonio Spurs have a very solid 34-11 record this season.
It was his team's sixth consecutive victory in a row.
It's Duncan's 16th year with the team.
Duncan has individually a very good season with high stats. He averages: 17.5ppg, 9.8rpg, 2.8apg and 2.7bpg in the 42 games he played so far.
Duncan has a dual citizenship: U.S. Virgin Islands and American.
#2.Antonin Galaya (196-G, currently plays college basketball in the States) contributed to an easy victory against the Howard University (1-6) crushing them 71-36 in the NCAA in Monday night's game.
He scored 9 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in 19 minutes.
The N.Carolina Central has 4-0 conference record this season.
So far his team won all four games in the conference.
This year Galaya's overall stats are: 9.4ppg, 3.4rpg and 2.6apg in the 16 games.
He is another player who holds two passports: U.S. Virgin Islands and French.
#3.Rakeem Christmas (206-F/C-91, currently studies in the States) managed to help Syracuse University to win against the University of Cincinnati (3-3) 57-55 in the NCAA last Monday.
Christmas scored only 2 points.
The Syracuse University has quite an impressive 6-0 conference record this season.
So far his team won all six games in the conference.
Christmas' overall stats this season are: 9.4ppg, 3.4rpg and 2.6apg.
Other top U.S. Virgin Islands players, who play abroad:
PANAMA CITY (2016 Centrobasket Championship) - Virgin Islands defeated Cuba 95-70, ending up with the 5th place of the 2016 Centrobasket Championship and becoming the seventh team qualified to Division A of the 2017 FIBA New Competition System and Calendar that will in turn qualify to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup hosted by China. Turning Point: After a contested first half, Virgin Islands put up a 28-17 third quarter led by a versatile attack that included five players scoring in... [read more]
PANAMA CITY (2016 Centrobasket Championship) - Virgin Islands defeated Cuba 95-70, ending up with the 5th place of the 2016 Centrobasket Championship and becoming the seventh team qualified to Division A of the 2017 FIBA New Competition System and Calendar that will in turn qualify to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup hosted by China.
Turning Point: After a contested first half, Virgin Islands put up a 28-17 third quarter led by a versatile attack that included five players scoring in double figures.
Stats Don't Lie: Virgin Islands' bench scoring was too much for a Cuban attack that relied on the individual play of their point guard Yaser Rodriguez. Virgin Islands scored 37 bench points against only 23 from Cuba.
Game Hero: Walter Hodge (183-PG-86, college: Florida) led the way for Virgin Islands with a complete performance that included 19 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists in the victory.
The Bottom Line: Virgin Islands came close. The team had tough outings and losses against Semi-Finalists Mexico and Dominican Republic that ultimately cost them a chance at the medal round. But Virgin Islands was able to close their participation in the 2016 edition with a dominating performance that showed their elite level in Central American and Caribbean play.
Teams qualified to Division A of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers: Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, USA, Virgin Islands
PANAMA (Centrobasket) - The team coached by Sam Mitchell claimed its second win of the 2016 Centrobasket Championship by defeating Costa Rica, 75 - 68 Turning Point: After a closely contested first half, Virgin Islands got into their usual fast pace and with a 19 - 7 third quarter cultivated the lead that will eventually get them the win. Stats don't lie: Virgin Islands accumulated 8 less turnovers than Costa Rica (11-19). Game Hero: Walter Hodge(183-PG-86, college: Florida) was the to... [read more]
PANAMA (Centrobasket) - The team coached by Sam Mitchell claimed its second win of the 2016 Centrobasket Championship by defeating Costa Rica, 75 - 68
Turning Point: After a closely contested first half, Virgin Islands got into their usual fast pace and with a 19 - 7 third quarter cultivated the lead that will eventually get them the win.
Stats don't lie: Virgin Islands accumulated 8 less turnovers than Costa Rica (11-19).
Game Hero: Walter Hodge (183-PG-86, college: Florida) was the top scorer for the winning team with 14 points and 7 assist.
The Bottom Line: Virgin Islands kept alive their hopes of qualifying to the Semifinals of the Centrobasket after capturing their second win of the competition. Tomorrow in the last day of the first phase, Virgin Islands will face the National Team of the Dominican Republic.
SMITH VIDEO After announcing earlier this year that he would depart Bethune-Cookman as a graduate transfer at the end of the spring semester, Laron Smith(203-F-93) visited various prospective schools. At each stop, one would negatively recruit against another. When he began to consider Auburn, the defeatists came out in force. 'People were like, 'Oh, you're going to play backup to the other bigs. You're not ready for that level. That's a whole different type of competition. I don't know... [read more]
After announcing earlier this year that he would depart Bethune-Cookman as a graduate transfer at the end of the spring semester, Laron Smith (203-F-93) visited various prospective schools. At each stop, one would negatively recruit against another. When he began to consider Auburn, the defeatists came out in force.
'People were like, 'Oh, you're going to play backup to the other bigs. You're not ready for that level. That's a whole different type of competition. I don't know if you want to go there and fail. It's your last year,'' Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward, recalled Monday.
At least at first, Smith listened to the cynics.
Maybe it wasn't worth spending his final college season at a school where it was no guarantee he would start or receive significant playing time. If he went to a mid-major school, Smith thought, he would be able to play his game and thrive. But the more he thought about it, the more he saw the Tigers were the right fit.
In Auburn, he saw a pathway to achieving his ultimate goal.
'If I want to go to the NBA, I've got to play against the best guys. If I can't play against the best guys, then I've got to take that dream out of the picture,' Smith said. 'The dream is in the picture, so when I was making my decision, I'm saying, 'What's going to make me be in the best situation to use the best of my abilities against the best competition?' When I came here, Bruce Pearl, he needed a shot-blocker, a person who was going to rebound and run the floor - those are my specialties. So he's going to put me where I'm comfortable at.'
It wasn't just what Pearl told him about his on-court role with the team that sold Smith on Auburn, though. It was how he was treated when he visited.
"The first thing I did was go to his house and meet his wife and kids and stuff like that and we had a dinner there," Smith said, "so that made me feel like I'm at home."
Smith also made sure to make the trip without his mother. Though he lived with her during his time at Bethune-Cookman - and she will do the same in Auburn - Smith said his mother would often try to push him in one direction or another based solely on her own perspective of a visit; in this instance, Smith felt he needed to do what was best for him. And he needed to do it alone. After much deliberation, Smith came to his decision.
He would become a Tiger.
And since summer workouts started two weeks ago, Smith has quickly settled into a groove.
'Very competitive,' Smith said of the practices thus far. 'Makes me want to go the gym late (at) night to get some extra work in, just so I'm on top of my game every day at practice. I'm loving everybody, man. It feels like a family here.'
No area of his game will receive more late-night gym work than free throw shooting. Since beginning his college career at Georgia State in 2012-13, Smith has steadily trended downward. In his first season at Georgia State, he shot 40 percent (4 of 10). As a sophomore, it dropped to 29.4 percent (5-for-17). He bottomed out last season at Bethune, making just 26.5 percent (13 of 49) of his attempts.
Yet Smith remains hopeful.
"I'm walking with faith. I hope I could be up in the 75 (percent range)," he said, "but I'm a realistic person. Hopefully I'm up in the mid-60s."
Every day at practice, Smith puts up as many shots as possible at the line. It's not just that he wants to improve; it's a matter of pride, too. He's tired of being taken out at the end of games because he's viewed as a liability. He's tired of opponents employing the "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy against him.
"I feel like as long as I can knock down free throws, I can stay in the game for a longer period of time and close out games," Smith said.
The free throws will come if they come.
Regardless of how he fares at the line this season, Smith said there were a few things he will bring to the team that will be on display every game. Above all else, he's "just going to compete."
Everything else he does flows from simply giving sustained, unrelenting effort.
"Any time I'm on the floor, I'm going to try to get ... blocked shots and rebounds - I know that's my criteria," he said. "I strive to get defensive player of the year. I got it last year (in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). I'm trying to get it this year in the SEC, so basically they should expect me to finish around the basket, knock down some shots, block shots and rebound."
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