Ukrainian March Madness

While the NCAA tournament has been hitting the news hard the last couple of weeks, another very important world basketball scenario has been playing out under the radar.  After an undefeated regular season (a whopping 3-0), my team, Ivan Franco University, played Polytechnic University in the first round of Ukrainian Collegiate-Amateur March Madness and what a thriller it was.  After holding a double digit lead for most of the game, Polytechnic slowly crept back into the game by utilizing their 6’9″ power forward who spent half a year training at an NBA camp.  Although he was pretty much unstoppable, he missed his last jump shot, and his teammates missed two tip-ins which would have ended our season.  In overtime, Ivan Franco pulled out the win on a last minute jump shot and a defensive stop.  Our next game is in early April where we will be playing in a final four pool for the Championship.  Here I come Detriotovich.

A Couple of Comments About My Playing Experience

I did not receive a real jersey until our tournament game.  Because I had to miss the practice the day  coach handed out jerseys and there was a limited number of jerseys, I did not receive one.  The solution was to simply have me borrow different teammate’s jerseys during the game.  Literally, one teammate would come out of the game and take off his jersey.  I would put it on and then check into the game.  I still am not quite sure how fouls worked out with this method, but whatever, I was just happy to play.  I have a real jersey now, even though it is a little different than everyone else’s.

While I do not start, I am getting quite a bit of playing time which is totally awesome.  The downside to all this is that I am stealing time from a bunch of other players and I’m breaking up the old patriarchal group which I am pretty sure has one player in particular a little upset at me.  This player is also my ride when we have a game at an unknown location so I better not get him too upset at me.      

Some of the rules in Ukrainian basketball are different and I have totally learned that the hard way.  On an inbounds pass from your half of the court, you cannot receive the ball on the other half of the court; turnover number one.  Goal tending either is different or we had some really poor refs our last game because I had my layup taken off the rim once and swatted after hitting the backboard twice; turnovers two and three.  Guess that is just reality when your 5’10 in the land of giants.      

Lastly, we have a crazy offense.  Because most of the players have not really had good coaching and learned the game via watching the NBA or playing low level street ball, our teams offense is an isolation offense.  Sure it works fine if you’ve got some good players but our team hardly has any understanding of movement off the ball and spacing.  This has been a totally difficult adjustment for me because I love working off the ball.  It is especially difficult when they isolate everything for me and I am supposed to drive into a lane full Ukrainian monsters just waiting to send some American boy’s lay-up flying.  I am settling for a lot of mid-range jump shots these days.  One positive thing about the difference in the game here is that Ukrainians are not particularly good at boxing out which has created many an opportunity for a pesky guard to squeeze in and get some tip-ins.

All in all, I have really enjoyed being a Ukrainian college basketball player.   

Sporting my Ivan Franco uniform which actually says "Cairo Bar".

Sporting my Ivan Franco uniform which actually says "Cairo Bar".


5 thoughts on “Ukrainian March Madness

  1. 3 games? Don’t push it…make sure you stretch at least fifteen minutes prior and after…don’t wanna pull a hammy with all those minutes. Seriously, that’s awesome that you get to play while there. Sounds like you only need to learn a couple Ukrainian words though…”Ball Movement” Just keep yelling that at them over and over until they get it. That’ll be sure to work, I know it.

    • Yes, great idea. We have a game tomorrow so I will master my ‘ball movement!’ phrases and prepare my vocals for yelling it. Speaking of stretching, I should get some pictures of these two stretches/exercises we do that just shred my ankles. You basically walk on both the outside and inside of your feet. These Ukrainian’s must have done it since being kids but the first time I tried it I got an immeadiate sprain.

  2. This is totally unbelievable. I am glad that you finally recieved your own jersey. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that goal tending is totally ok over in Europe. Have fun among the trees buddy.

  3. Dave,

    Sounds like you need to implement the Bobby Knight rule of 2-3 passes before a shot! Glad to hear you are able to participate in this aspect of ukranian life. I wish we could watch your games on webcast or something- Good luck in the finals-


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