Monday, September 23, 2013
Everywhere you turned at the various FIBA continental championships this summer, it seemed like you could run into a player with Valparaiso ties, as eight current and former Crusaders represented six different countries at four of the five continental championships. In addition, a pair of seniors from last year's Horizon League championship team inked deals to continue playing basketball professionally in Europe.
Two former Crusaders earned gold medals representing their native countries this summer. Veteran Joaquim Gomes (2000-2004) helped Angola continue its dominance of African basketball, earning his fourth AfroBasket gold medal as a member of the Angolan squad and helping the team qualify for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Gomes averaged 5.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg in the gold medal run as Angola went 7-0. He scored a tournament-best nine points each in wins over Mozambique and Morocco, and chipped in six points and three rebounds in the gold medal game against Egypt.
Meanwhile, Ryan Broekhoff (2009-2013) continued his fledgling international career, as after helping Australia to a silver medal at the World University Games, Broekhoff stepped up to the senior squad as Australia swept New Zealand in a two-game series to claim the gold medal at the Oceania Championship and earn an automatic berth in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Broekhoff appeared in both games of the series, combining to play 13 minutes and score six points for the Boomers.
Gomes was one of two former Crusaders competing at the 2013 FIBA AfroBasket, as Mohamed Kone (2005-2006) was part of the host Ivory Coast squad. Ivory Coast went 5-2 at the tournament, coming up just one point shy of claiming the bronze medal. Kone averaged 8.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game over Ivory Coast's seven games, including a 20-point, 10-rebound performance in just 19 minutes in a win over Burkina Faso.
Four former Valpo players competed at the 2013 FIBA EuroBasket, including Lubos Barton (1998-2002), who suited up for the Czech Republic, which went 2-3 and was knocked out in the preliminary group stage. Barton averaged 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, including a 10-point game against Poland. He also pulled down 12 rebounds in 19 minutes against Spain, which entered the tournament ranked second in the world.
A trio of former Crusaders were part of the Finland squad which went 4-1 to advance out of the preliminary group, and then missed out on advancing out of the second round to the knockout stage based on a head-to-head tiebreaker. Shawn Huff (2004-2008) posted 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game for the Finns, highlighted by a 20-point, nine-rebound game in a three-point win over Russia, which entered the tournament ranked sixth in the world.
Huff also contributed 13 points to a win over Greece, the world's fourth-ranked team entering the tournament. Meanwhile, Samuel Haanpaa (2006-2008) averaged 3.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game, including nine-point efforts against Turkey and Slovenia, while Antti Nikkila (1999-2003) appeared in four of Finland's eight games.
Junior Vashil Fernandez capped a busy offseason, which included traveling to New Zealand as one of three Crusaders to play on Athletes in Action teams this summer, by playing for his native Jamaica in the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship. It was a historic tournament for the Jamaican squad, which appeared at the Americas Championship for the first time and won games over both Argentina (ranked third in the world) and Brazil (ranked ninth in the world). Fernandez appeared in four games at the tournament, blocking a shot in the win over Argentina and grabbing a pair of rebounds against eventual champions Mexico.
Outside of the international ranks, a pair of Crusaders who helped Valpo to back-to-back Horizon League regular season titles and the 2013 NCAA Tournament have inked professional deals in Europe. Broekhoff signed with Besiktas JK in Istanbul, a member of the Turkish Basketball League which is perhaps most notable for signing NBA All-Star Deron Williams to play during the 2011 NBA lockout. Meanwhile, Kevin Van Wijk (2010-2013) signed with Oviedo CB, a Spanish squad which captured the LEB Plata championship last season to earn promotion to LEB Oro, the second-tier professional league in Spain.