After a nice relaxing day checking out the sights and tasting the nightlife in Europes unofficial capital, Brussels, a short 40 minute train ride landed me in the industrial town of Charleroi for a premier ULEB Cup matchup between Spirou Charleroi and Akasvayu Girona. I got to the Spiroudome arena a few hours early, which allowed me to receive a tour of this terrific facility from Charlerois General Manager David Desy. The five-year old arena is impressive to say the very least, complete with luxurious skyboxes, excellent restaurants, and nice bars as well. Everything is cozy, tidy and comfortable just like you come to expect from indoor spaces in Belgium, but this one really takes the cake. The layout of the arena is what really makes the experience most impressive, though. You almost feel like you are right on top of the floor no matter where you are sitting, which provides a terrific atmosphere when combined with Charlerois terrific fans. Its really no surprise that the ULEB Cup Final was hosted here for each of the last four years (even if they are moving it to Turin this year.)
I laughed at the six pack of Jupiler beer that was available in the press room after the Liege game well Charleroi took things even a step further, inviting all the press members to join the VIPs for a special reception with a completely open bar after the game. These guys really know how to organize an event. Everything was like clockwork the entire day. Were almost getting spoiled here in Europe
Girona Defeats Charleroi
In the end, the Spanish squad was just too strong for Charleroi, who was missing their starting point guard Michael Jordan. That really showed over the last few minutes of the contest, as combo guard Justin Hamilton (who is a very good player, but really has too many responsibilities on his shoulders at the moment) was not able to properly organize the team in the half-court set and saw his team settling for a number of poor looks, including a few of his own.
Girona sports an outstanding frontcourt, with two NBA draft picks at the big man spots in 6-10 Jackson Vroman and 7-0 Marc Gasol, giving them an incredible force inside that Charleroi just could not overcomecombining for 31 points and 15 rebounds in just over 50 minutes between them.
Vroman is still the same scrappy power forward who plays efficiently within a half-court offense, moves off the ball intelligently, is unselfish and really makes everyone around him better with the intangibles he brings to the floor. If he were willing to play for the minimum, there is no question that he could play in the NBA, and hes even improved his ability to create shots facing the basket off the dribble or in the post with some basic moves.
Another player who deserves some credit is 6-6 Spanish swingman Fernando San Emeterio. Hes only 23 years old at the moment, and is already a go-to caliber player at this level. He hasnt gotten the recognition he deserves because the Spanish National Team is so stacked at his position (Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, etc), meaning he hasnt chance the chance to showcase himself that much outside of Spain. San Emeterio is a mobile swingman who can create his own shot and get to the basket at a nice rate, being particularly effective in transition. Hes a smart, efficient player who can really pass and always shoots a high percentage from the floor (62% for 2s in the ACB, 77% in the ULEB Cup), although hes not quite as good stepping out from behind the arc, even if he can knock down 3-pointers (with a not so pretty flat-footed release). San Emeterio had a very nice game here, scoring 13 points (5-7 FG) and grabbing 8 rebounds.
Those who think that the European game is soft really need to take a look at what is going on these days on the Old Continent and rethink that theory. Whereas almost every sign of contact in the NBA draws the ire of the referees, what Im seeing so far in Europe is a game where very physical play is a way of life and very little gets called. You see tons of slaps, pokes and chops that are intentionally ignored by the referees in favor of letting the game flow, while players are allowed to fend off players posting up with an elbow in the back (a no-no in the league) and freely meet slashers at the rim with plenty of body contact. Some people might object to this style of basketball, but I thought it made the game really enjoyable.
Next Up: Danilo Gallinaris Armani Jeans Milano (Euroleague game vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv)