10 players to watch in the Qualifiers
MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) – There are a number of intriguing names among the 21-team field involved in the FIBA Europe Cup Qualifiers. From established veterans to exciting up-and-comers, this is your ultimate guide on must-see players in the Qualification Rounds.
1. Vasileios Charalampopoulos, Lavrio
It would not at all be too far-fetched to call Vasileios Charalampopoulos one of the most dominant youth players in Europe in recent years. The golden touch of the now 21-year-old left-handed forward earned Greece titles at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2015 and FIBA U20 European Championship 2017, with Charalampopoulos capturing the MVP award on both occasions. Having mutually agreed to terminate a long-term deal with Panathinaikos this summer after a year out on loan with PAOK Thessaloniki, he chose to take his talents to the historic mining town of Lavrio as his next destination, joining the club for the next two seasons.
2. Jack Cooley, Dinamo Sassari
Some might label him an NBA Summer League star, others would go as far as to call him king – one way or another, Jack Cooley has a reputation to uphold. Having been rained down by 'MVP' chants during the Summer League, the 27-year-old center returns to Europe after a season on a two-way contract with the Sacramento Kings. Having last represented MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg on this side of the pond, Cooley already showed himself to be an excellent contributor in the Basketball Champions League in 2016-17. Arriving to Sardinia as the unofficial king of the NBA Summer League, it shouldn't take much time for Cooley to win the hearts and minds of Dinamo Sassari fans with his intangibles and one-of-a-kind physicality.
3. Daniel Mullings, Kataja Basket
Daniel Mullings might have missed an entire season recovering from an injury, but the 27-year-old guard from Canada has to be on your radar after lighting up the continent a couple of years ago. It is hardly a coincidence that Mullings resumes his career in Finland, where he enjoyed a break-out season with Kataja Basket in the Basketball Champions League, averaging 15.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.4 steals per game in 2016-17. He did introduce himself to the FIBA Europe Cup as well that year after switching tracks between competitions for the Play-Offs, scoring 32 points over the two legs of the Round of 16 tie against Telekom Baskets Bonn.
4. Damian Kulig, Istanbul BBSK
Damian Kulig enters his fourth season in Turkey after getting continental notoriety during a break-out 2014-15 campaign with Turow Zgorzelec. Having played for Trabzonspor and Banvit since, the versatile 31-year-old big man inked a deal with Istanbul BBSK this summer. Having mostly come off the bench in Bandirma, Kulig can expect a larger role in his new club. The scenic views of the Bosporus in Istanbul might be considered a perk of the job, but it comes with the tough task of replacing the dominant Stefan Bircevic-Ivan Buva frontcourt partnership. It will be no easy feat even for a player of Kulig's stature.
5. Xavier Rey, SL Benfica
After playing for various Spanish ACB clubs for over a decade, former Spain international and FIBA EuroBasket 2013 bronze medal winner Xavier Rey took the seldom-used route westward, joining the ranks of SL Benfica. Although he might have peaked as Marc Gasol's double on the Spanish national team five years ago in Slovenia, the 31-year-old center still has plenty to offer for the Eagles, who are looking for a bounce-back year after a disappointing season last year. He joined the storied Portuguese club from Zaragoza, having also played for Manresa, FC Barcelona, Gran Canaria, Canarias, Estudiantes and Fuenlabrada.
6. Devon van Oostrum, New Heroes Den Bosch
Devon van Oostrum was once an elite prospects in Europe, sharing the FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year ballot in 2013 with the likes of Dario Saric, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Domantas Sabonis and Alex Abrines. Those days may be long gone, but the 1993-born point guard with an eye for the flashy pass has continued to tantalize basketball fans with his untapped potential. Having strung together a couple of strong seasons in Greece, van Oostrum saw his momentum ended by an unfortunate knee injury in February 2017 representing MZT Skopje in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Looking to get his career back on track, the guard took up an opportunity with New Heroes Den Bosch back in his country of birth, Netherlands.
7. Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Rosa Radom
Colombia international Hanner Mosquera-Perea brings a little bit of exotica to the FIBA Europe Cup, but certainly not just that. The 25-year-old South American big man headlining the Rosa Radom frontcourt spent the past season in Australia, dunking on people and swatting opponent shots left and right. This will be the first glimpse European basketball fans get of the former Tennessee State Buccaneer, who also took part in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers with the national team. The road to China might have finished prematurely for Perea and the Colombians, but he is now set to begin an equally exciting European stage of the journey in Poland.
8. Daequan Cook, Ironi Ness Ziona
Daequan Cook returns to Ironi Ness Ziona for a second season, ending a stretch of one-year stints in Ukraine, Germany, France, Portugal and Iran. Having been a first round selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, Cook enjoyed a sizeable role for the Miami Heat in his rookie and sophomore seasons; he also reached the NBA Finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. Primarily known for his shooting, he added an NBA Three-Point Contest title to his resume in 2009. During his time overseas, the 31-year-old swingman has averaged 8.2 three-point field goal attempts per game on a 36.4% clip over the years. He will be no newcomer to the FIBA Europe Cup, having represented SL Benfica in the 2015-16 season.
9. Kyrylo Natyazhko, Dnipro
Remember a fair-haired Ukrainian giant of a man from FIBA EuroBasket 2013 and FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014? Kyrylo Natyazhko had given up basketball for two years, but he's giving the sport another try with Dnipro, who have assembled an all-Ukrainian squad for the upcoming campaign. Although the 27-year-old center isn't expected to play any significant role on the team to begin with, keeping an eye on Natyazhko's against-the-odds comeback promises to be a unique story and one worth following. Bothered by weight problems throughout his career, he is on a mission to get closer to game shape and put his undeniable skills to good use once again.
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10. Worthy De Jong, ZZ Leiden
If there's anyone worthy of being on the list by default, it's Worthy De Jong. It might be too early to call the battle-tested 30-year-old Dutch guard a veteran, but the wealth of international experience might be the difference between ZZ Leiden sinking or swimming in their international return. De Jong is one of two players on the squad to have played in the inaugural edition of the FIBA Europe Cup in 2015-16, the last time the club competed internationally. He was also one of the top minute-getters on the national team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers, helping Netherlands qualify for the Second Round.