Pursuit after D.J. Strawberry continues in Israel

With the NBA lockout still in session, many players study their next move before the league reopens its doors again. Despite potential NBA interest in free agents, players are expected to ‘settle’ on the European delight as their home away from home.

‘Eurobasket’ recently learned that one of the athletes who played overseas last season and is receiving lots of looks this summer is D.J. Strawberry, who is wanted in Israel by almost every top rated organization. Strawberry was the Hornets’ final cut last year and has current interest from both the Spurs and Lakers; however, he is determined on playing this coming season and is getting heat from major Israeli clubs who shall remain anonymous for the moment but are in search of a talented and proven guard.

An ACC All-Defensive team, dynamic and versatile playmaker is what stands out while thinking of Strawberry. Last summer, the 26-year-old Maryland graduate played for the Los Angeles Lakers in Vegas, averaging 13 points in just over 26 minutes, resulting in Hapoel Jerusalem giving him a serious look before eventually deciding to go with Will Solomon. Strawberry first met his international challenge in 2008 and answered with a respective 14.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.5apg and 1.2spg in the Eurocup games while playing for Italy’s Bologna. Before being bought out by Rytas this past season, Strawberry excelled with D-League’s Reno Bighorns and improved every aspect of his game, posting numbers of 14.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

Strawberry’s next move is to be determined shortly, as he exercises his Israelis options hoping reside in Israel.

Strawberry was drafted in 2007 by the Phoenix Suns with the 59th pick only to be traded a year later to the Houston Rockets where from there, he joined Italian club Fortitudo Bologna. In 2010, Strawberry was signed by the New Orleans Hornets to a non-guaranteed one-year deal and eventually finished last season in Lithuania playing for Lietuvos Rytas.

Source: David Pick, EUROBASKET

Ekene Ibekwe Remains With BBC Bayreuth

BBC Bayreuth announced Friday night that Ekene Ibekwe (206-F-85, college: Maryland) will play the upcoming season in the Bavarian city. Ebekwe is a 25 year old 206cm power forward from Carson City, California that has American and Nigerian roots. He is a long, lean dynamic post player with unlimited athletic potential a talented shooter for his size who can take the ball to the basket and score in the post, a high-flying finisher and shot blocker. Last season he split the season in Germany and Israel between the Artland Dragons Quakenbrueck playing 14 games: 8.9ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.2spg, 2.4bpg, FGP: 59.3%, FT: 50.0%; EuroChallenge Qualifying Round: 2 games: 8.5ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.0apg, in Dec.’10 moved to Ironi Ashkelon (Israel-Premier League): 6 games: 6.0ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.5spg, FGP: 42.9%, FT: 37.5%; in Feb.’11 signed at BBC Bayreuth (Germany-1.Bundesliga, starting five): 15 games: 11.5ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.0apg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 57.4%, FT: 54.7%. ‘Ekene was our desired player at the four position. He played great games last season and helped us on defense. He helped the team with his fighting qualities and showed his presence under the basket. His athletic game also helped our game’,stressed BBC Bayreuth coach Andreas Wagner.

Source: BBC Bayreuth

Locked out of one dream, Akognon forms another

Former Case Grande star working out for NBA teams, but labor unrest could send him back to China

Sometimes dreams cause blindness. Dreams, if they are full of fantasy, rarely cut through the clouds. The dreamer is locked into a trance in which he cannot see, does not want to see. Josh Akognon could be but is not one of those dreamers. And how tempting it would be for Akognon to ignore reality, for he is as close as he’s ever been to his NBA dream.

Both the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets worked out Akognon in the past couple weeks, both telling him they really liked his game, both giving the former Casa Grande star the distinct impression they would invite him to their training camp. If they had one. The NBA lockout prevents that. So, Akognon could wait around for a season that may or may not come.

Or Akognon could continue being a rock star in China.

In April, Akognon finished a 39-game schedule with the DongGuan Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association. He averaged 29.2 points a game, made 55.6 percent of his field goals and had four games over 40 points, one of them 54 points. All those numbers created the following Mick Jagger experience.

“We were at the Chinese New Year parade,” said Akognon of himself, his wife Ariana, and his son, Josiah, now 10 months, “and someone recognized me and wanted to take my picture.”

Within 10 minutes, 50-100 people surrounded the Akognons, he estimated. Within 20-30 minutes, upwards of 400 people were using their camcorders. Very few Chinese, Akognon has found, ask for autographs. Eventually the Akognons were walking away, wanting to leave, but the crowd began following them. They wanted to see where Akognon was living. The Akognons needed a police escort to their apartment area.

The police restrained the fans from getting too close, so Akognon was able to enter the apartment complex without being tailed.


Gillenwater withdraws name from NBA Draft

LAS CRUCES – Former New Mexico State forward Troy Gillenwater was one of 41 NBA Draft early entry candidates to withdraw before the league’s withdrawal deadline on Monday.

After declaring for the draft in April following a his junior season at NMSU, Gillenwater opted not to withdraw from the Draft before the NCAA’s deadline of May 8, signing with Los Angeles-based agent Scott Nichols and waiting until the NBA’s deadline, less than two weeks before the June 23 draft.

“The NCAA deadline doesn’t give kids a real chance to test the waters,” said Nichols , who has represented Gillenwater for the past month. “Troy knew that for whatever reason, he was not going back to school so the May 8 deadline didn’t mean much to him. He will be draft-eligible next year so he can go to the D-League or more likely, overseas.”

In his first full season as a go-to player on the Aggies, Gillenwater was a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference player and NABC All-District selection. Gillenwater’s minutes per game climbed from 22.8 as a sophomore to 30.3 last season and he led the team in scoring (18.9 points per game) and rebounding (6.3 rpg), as the Aggies finished with a 16-17 record.

Gillenwater was one of 27 players from U.S. colleges who were on the initial early entry list but have since withdrawn.


Troy Gillenwater won’t return to NMSU

The name Troy Gillenwater wasn’t on the NCAA’s early-entry withdrawal list that was released May 11.

The name of New Mexico State’s leading scorer was, however, on the NBA’s official withdrawal list that was issued by the league Tuesday.

But fear not, NCAA, you won’t have to deal with a suspension for Gillenwater, as was the case last year with Mississippi State’s Dee Bost. Bost was the first casualty of the NCAA’s rule because he supposedly was unaware of the new May date. That mental lapse (combined with being ineligible for the fall semester) cost Bost the first 14 games of the season.

Gillenwater may have been looking at a similar suspension, but instead he signed with agent Scott Nichols after the May 8 deadline.

“He can’t go back to New Mexico State. I’m representing him,” said Nichols, a Los Angeles-based agent who also represents San Diego State’s D.J. Gay and former Maryland player D.J. Strawberry. Nichols has done marketing for Memphis Grizzlies guard Greivis Vasquez.

“Schoolwise, he wouldn’t have qualified academically,” Nichols said. “It didn’t go well for him.”

Nichols said Gillenwater is looking at the NBA Developmental League or overseas for the immediate future. But Nichols had to get a clear understanding that Gillenwater could still re-enter the NBA draft in 2012 even after withdrawing his name this year. He can and he will. Gillenwater, a 6-foot-8 junior from Boston, led the Aggies with 18.9 ppg and 6.3 rpg last season, but was a long shot to get drafted this month anyway.