Friday, September 7, 2012

An American's Guide to the French Pro A League

In this guide I'll give you a quick rundown of France's top professional league as it relates to American interest.  I'll tell you about of some of the former college, D-League & NBA players that will play in France this season as well as some notable players, upcoming prospects and players to watch for.

The French Pro A league is one of the best in the world as has produced NBA stars such as Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Tony Parker & Mickael Pietrus.  This year's 20th pick in the draft, Evan Fournier, heads to Denver from Poitiers after capturing the league's Rising Star Award last season.  Of the 16 teams, 8 will play in other major competitions this season including last year's league champion, Chalon, who will represent France in the Euroleague.  Below I'll take a look at each team and some of their players who you will, might or should know.

ASVEL VILLEURBANNE

NBA connection - Paccelis Morlende.  Morlende was drafted 50th overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the 76ers.  His draft rights were traded to Seattle for Willie Green and are still held today by the Thunder.

D-League connection - Amara Sy. - Amara is the brother of ex-NBA player Pape Sy and was drafted 4th overall by Bakersfield in the 2009 D-League draft.

NCAA rooks - Tim Abromaitis and Chace Stanback.  Abromaitis had 2 superb years with Notre Dame before tearing his ACL two games into last season.  Stanback helped lead UNLV to a 26-9 record and NCAA tournament berth a season ago.  He dropped 28 & 10 en route to a victory of #1 ranked UNC back in November.

Blast from the past - Uche Nsonwu-Amadi.  The former University of Wyoming product is a rebounding machine who joins the club from rival Roanne this year.

Get to know - Livio Jean-Charles.  The 18 year old power forward is an exciting player who got his feat wet with Asvel last year and looks to take on a bigger role this year.  He impressed at the 2012 Adidas Eurocamp with his hustle and off the ball movement.

Other notables - Edwin Jackson and Paul Lacombe.  Jackson went undrafted in 2011 but he's just 22 years old and lead the team in scoring during last year's French league play.  Lacombe went undrafted in 2012 but won the Hustle Player Award at the 2012 Adidas Eurocamp and is described as being a smart, willing passer with the ability to finish at the rim. 

BOULAZAC

NBA connection - None

D-League connection - Osiris Eldridge and Justin Hawkins.  Eldridge averaged 15.1 points in 42 games for the Bakersfield Jam last year.  Hawkins is a New Mexico State grad who saw time with Springfield during the 2009-10 season.

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Darryl Monroe.  I'm stretching it here a little bit but Monroe was a 2009 graduated of George Mason who averaged 10.5 points and 7.7 rebounds during his senior year.  He carried Boulazac to the Pro B league finals and helped earn his team a promotion to the top French division by finishing 6th in the league in points and 3rd in rebounds.

Get to know - Roman Virastiuk.  The 20 year old forward joins the club from BC Kyiv's junior team and has been a part of a number of Ukranian national teams in his young career.

Other notables - None

CHALON

NBA connection - Shelden Williams and Marcus Denmon.  Williams joins the team from the Nets and 2006's 5th overall pick brings with him 6 years and 361 games worth of NBA experience.  Denmon was selected 59th overall in the 2012 draft by the Spurs out of the University of Missouri and will look to gain valuable experience before possibly joining San Antonio somewhere down the line.

D-League connection - None

NCAA rooks - Marcus Denmon.  see above.

Blast from the past - Blake Schilb.  The former Loyola (IL) product enters his 4th year with the team.  Last year he led the team with 16.5 points per game on his way to capturing the Foreign Player's MVP Award and a French league title.

Get to know - Joffrey Lauvergne.  The 6th rated international prospect born in 1991 by Draft Express tested the draft waters each of the last two years before withdrawing his name from consideration.  Lauvergne should benefit with the addition of Shelden Williams as the power forward tries to turn potential into production with an eye toward the 2013 draft.

Other notables - Jordan Aboudou & Ulysse Adjagba.  Aboudou is the 12th rank 1991 prospect according to Draft Express who will look to secure a more pivotal role in the rotation this year.  Adjagba is a 19 year old point guard prospect who saw limited minutes last season who has the potential to become a NBA prospect down the road.

CHOLET

NBA connection - Ben Uzoh and Edwin Ubiles.  Uzoh has seen 60 games of NBA action over the past two years with the Nets, Cavs & Raptors.  In the final game of the season for the Raptors last year, Uzoh put up a triple double (12 pts, 12 ast, 11 reb) and certainly has proved he can play at the highest level if given the opportunity.  Ubiles saw garbage time minutes in 4 games for the Wizards last year after a D-League promotion.

D-League connection - Ben Uzoh and Edwin Ubiles.  It wasn't long after Scott Schroeder wrote this that Uzoh was getting another look in the NBA.  Ubiles averaged 19.2 points per game for the Dakota Wizards before his call up last year on his way to an all star selection and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award.

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - A.J. Slaughter.  He was a part of the 2008-09 Western Kentucky team that upset no. 5 seed Illinois in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament.  He graduated the following year and played for top division teams in Italy and Belgium prior to joining Cholet.

Get to know - Rudy Gobert.  Gobert is a monster prospect currently ranked 4th in Draft Express' 2013 mock draft.  Gobert is described as extremely promising on both ends of the court and should see a significant increase in his minutes this year.  He's a 7 footer with loads of potential and watching his growth is probably the number one reason you should pay attention to the French league this season.

Other notables - Yannis Morin, Marcus Goree and Luc-Arthur Vedobe.  Morin is a work in progress with potential.  Goree is a former West Virginia grad who joins the club from Italy.  He a Vedobe, of Hawaii, will be important role players for Cholet this year.

DIJON

NBA connection - T.J. Campbell.  Campbell played for the Cavaliers summer league squad in Vegas this year.

D-League connection - T.J. Campbell.  During last year's regular season Campbell starred for the Canton Charge averaging 12.6 points and 5.2 assists per game.  He helped Canton reach the semifinals before getting a long look from the Cavs this summer.

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Kevin Tiggs.  Tiggs led the Atlantic Sun conference with 21.4 points per game during the 2008-09 season and his team to a NCAA tournament berth.  As a 16 seed, Tiggs' East Tennessee State squad nearly pulled off the ultimate upset over top ranked Pittsburgh.

Get to know - Ferdinand Prenom.  Prenom blossomed while on loan to Pro B team Antibes last season averaging 10.0 points & 5.1 rebounds in just 18.6 minutes per game.  The 21 year old center will test himself in the top division this year and will be one to keep an eye on moving forward.

Other notables - Zach Moss.  Moss led Mountain State to the 2004 NAIA championship while garnering tournament MVP and player of the year honors.  It was an absolutely legendary season for Moss and those around him.  He will play an integral role for the Eurochallenge team this season.

GRAVELINES

NBA connection - Larry Owens.  Owens had 3 short stints in the NBA over the last 2 seasons totaling 17 games.

D-League connection - Larry Owens & Dwight Buycks.  Owens played for Tulsa in each of the past 3 seasons in between NBA call ups.  He was an all star in 2011 and also made the All-Defensive First Team.  Buycks averaged 15.1 pts over 26 games for Tulsa a season ago before heading to Belgium and winning a title with Oostende.  The Marquette alum saw summer league time with both the Spurs and the Thunder.

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Juby Johnson.  Johnson was the 4th leading scorer in the MAC during his 2003-04 senior season at Miami (OH).  He spent his first 5 professional years with Zadar with whom he helped win 2 Croatian league championships.  He enters his 3rd season with Gravelines this year.

Get to know - Abdoulaye Loum.  Loum is a raw prospect with tons of athletic ability but little experience.  The power forward should see an increase in playing time this year and will be interesting to watch develop.

Other notables - William Howard.  The Maryland prep star was committed to the University of Washington but didn't get the necessary SAT scores and will begin his professional career in his native France.  He's likely to see very limited time if any at the club level but he's one to keep an eye for later.

LE HAVRE

NBA connection - Juice Thompson.  Thompson was on the Hornets summer league roster in Vegas.

D-League connection - None

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Bernard King.  King is the all time leading scorer in Texas A&M history who is hoping to revive his career with Le Havre.

Get to know - Vlad Moldoveanu.   A year removed from American University where he averaged 20.4 points per game as a senior, Moldoveanu comes to Le Havre from Italian team Benetton Treviso with a chance to make a name for himself.

Other notables - Max Kouguere.  The former prospect is now 25 and hoping to jump start his career after a year in Le Mans rotation.  So far it is going well.

LE MANS

NBA connection - Pape Sy and Khalid El-Amin.  The 53rd pick of the 2010 draft saw a total of 3 games of action a year ago and never really got an opportunity in the NBA.  El-Amin was drafted by the Bulls with the 34th pick of the 2000 draft and played 50 games for them before beginning his illustrious career overseas.

D-League connection - None

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Khalid El-Amin.  Khalid was the starting point guard for the 1999 NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies.  He had dominating stops with Besiktas in Turkey and Azovmash in the Ukraine between 2003-2007.  He was an all star 2 years ago for Lietuvos Rytas in the Lithuanian league before an injury derailed his season.  After recovering, he signed on with Cibona and helped them win the Croatian league title.  He joins Le Mans at the age of 33 with a chance to help them qualify for a spot in the Euroleague.

Get to know - Henri Kahudi.  The 21 year old combo guard was seeing increased minutes late last year before his season ended due to appendicitis.  He should get an expanded role this year for last year's runner ups.

Other notables - Cam Long and J.P. Batista.  Long went undrafted in 2011 out of George Mason and joined Siauliai in Lithuania as a rookie.  He led the team in scoring and to a semifinal berth in the Baltic league as a rookie.  The former Gonzaga Bulldog led the team in rebounding and was 2nd in points last year.  He enters his 5th season for the Euroleague hopefuls.

LIMOGES

NBA connection - Edin Bavcic.  Bavcic was the 56th overall pick in the 2006 draft whose rights were recently traded by Philly to the New Orleans Hornets in a trade that netted Dorell Wright.

D-League connection - Brad Wanamaker, Brandon Costner and Kyle McAlarney.  Wanamaker comes to France from the Austin Toros and has also been in summer league for the Hawks each of the last two seasons.  Costner, the former NC State star, spent the last two years in the D-League with Utah & L.A. and averaged 20.3 points per game for the latter last season.  McAlarney spent the 2009-10 season split between Fort Wayne & Springfield before the Notre Dame grad headed out to Europe.  He was Limoges leading scorer a year ago.

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Terence Dials.  Dials was the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year in 2005-06 for Ohio State.  He has bounced around the world during his professional career and heads to Limoges from Taiwan where he missed most of the year with a knee injury.

Get to know - Brad Wanamaker.  Wanamaker has been right on the fringe of the NBA for a couple of seasons now and the young point guard will have a chance to showcase his talents for the new team in the French top division.

Other notables - Angelo Tsamis.  Tsamis arrives from Greece where he lead Kolossos in scoring last season and will be a big part of trying to keep Limoges from relegation this year.

NANCY

NBA connection - None

D-League connection - None

NCAA rooks - none

Blast from the past - Marcellus Sommerville.  He led Bradley to a sweet 16 appearance during his 2005-06 senior season as the team's leading scorer and arrives from Le Mans.

Get to know - Abdel Kader Sylla.  Sylla is a raw, 21 year old forward/center prospect with a huge wingspan who is still developing his game but has the potential to breakout this year and become a draft prospect.

Other notables - Shawn King.  The former Oral Roberts star heads to Nancy from BC Odessa in the Ukraine where he averaged 17.3 points and 10.2 rebounds last year.

NANTERRE

NBA connection - David Lighty.  The Ohio State product went undrafted in 2011 and headed to Italy as a rookie.  This summer, he played for the Phoenix Suns in Las Vegas.

D-League connection - None

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Rashaun Freeman.  The former UMass big man put up 36.3 points and 16.4 rebounds last year in the Chinese NBL after playing in Israel.

Get to know - Miguel Cardoso.  He arrives from FC Porto as one of Portugal's rising stars after the team disbanded.  The Pro A league will certainly be a big jump for the 19 year old point guard but time will tell as he gets acclimated.

Other notables - Chris Oliver.  The former Radford forward joins the team from Strasbourg with a chance to make a major impact this season.

ORLEANS

NBA connection - None

D-League connection - Brian Greene.  The former Colorado State forward played for the Colorado 14ers during the 2007-08 season before latching on with some of the better European clubs.

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Caleb Green.  The 3x Mid Continent Conference Player of the Year led Oral Roberts to 2 NCAA tournaments while averaging 19.6 points per game in his 4 years.  He arrives after a few years with some of the top Belgian club teams.

Get to know - Bryan Pamba.  The 20 year old combo guard should get more of an opportunity this year to become a steady rotation player this season.

Other notables - Jahmar Young.  The former New Mexico State Aggie comes from Latvian powerhouse Ventspils where he led the team with 15.3 points per game.  He will be a major factor in how good Orleans can be this season.

PARIS-LEVALLOIS

NBA connection - Sean May and Jawad Williams.  May was the 13th pick in the 2005 draft out of UNC.  He played 119 games over 4 seasons with Charlotte & Sacramento.  Williams, another UNC product, spent 3 years with Cleveland between 2008-2011.

D-League connection - Jawad Williams.  Williams spent parts of 3 seasons in the D-League including the 2008-09 season when he averaged 25.4 points in 19 games for Rio Grande Valley.

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - John Cox.  Cox averaged 20 points per game as a senior for the University of San Francisco in 2004-05.  Last year he led Le Havre with 15.8 points per game.

Get to know - Louis Labeyrie.  The 20 year old PF/C is one of the top European prospects with exciting potential.  He has an excellent defensive presence and got big minutes with Hyeres-Toulon last year and held his own in Pro A.  He has an NBA out in his contract and with a good year he's a name you should here come draft time next season.

Other notables - Andrew Albicy.  Albicy was the Defensive Player of the Year for Gravelines last year who went undrafted this past year.  The 5'10'' point guard is still just 22 years old and has an extremely bright future which still may include a NBA opportunity at some point.

POITIERS

NBA connection - Ahmad Nivins.  The St. Joe's product was drafted in 2009, 56th overall by the Mavericks.  His draft rights are now held by the Knicks, whom he played summer league for, after being acquired in the Tyson Chandler trade.

D-League connection - None

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Justin Gray.  Gray was Chris Paul's backcourt partner at Wake Forest where he averaged 16.2 points per game over his 4 years.  A knee injury prematurely ended his tenure with Fraport in Germany last year.  He returned to play 2 games late in the year with Greek team Kavala and is looking for a fresh start this season.

Get to know - Boris Dallo.  Dallo was courted by several French teams before deciding on Poitiers.  The 18 year old point guard prospect excelled with CFBB last season and is a raw, long term project with huge potential.

Other notables - Anthony Smith.  The former Liberty shooting guard excelled with Bremerhaven in Germany last season.  He is known as a big dunker who will add some excitement for Poitiers.

ROANNE

NBA connection - Ryan Reid.  Reid was the 57th pick in the 2010 draft who saw very limited action in Oklahoma City.

D-League connection - Ryan Reid and Coleman Collins.  Most of Reid's time with Oklahoma City was spent developing in Tulsa.  Collins played 46 games for Fort Wayne during the 2008-09 season.

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - None

Get to know - None

Other notables - Matt Howard and Alan Voskuil.  Howard led Butler to back to back NCAA finals appearances and also played for the Suns in summer league.  Voskuil starred at Texas Tech and also played in summer league for the Memphis Grizzlies.

STRASBOURG

NBA connection - Alexis Ajinca.  Ajinca was the 20th pick in the 2008 draft and played 71 games over 3 seasons with Charlotte, Dallas and Toronto.  He also played summer league this year with the Spurs.

D-League connection - None

NCAA rooks - None

Blast from the past - Ricardo Greer.  Greer starred for the University of Pittsburgh at the turn of the century.  He led Strasbourg last year with 13.1 points and 7.0 rebounds.

Get to know - Hugo Invernizzi.  Hugo is a 19 year old shooting guard prospect with hopes of becoming an important part of the rotation this year.

Other notables - Axel Toupane.  Toupane is a 20 year old small forward who is the 19th ranked 1992 international prospect according to Draft Express.

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