US NCAA prodigy Singler shines in Euroleague debut
BELGRADE—Kyle Singler took a road less travelled for a player with a college basketball title under his belt and his decision to swap the NBA for Europe was vindicated in an impressive Euroleague debut for Real Madrid on Thursday.
Singler, who steered Duke to their fourth NCAA title in 2010, scored eight points in 24 minutes on the court as a starter in Real Madrid's 101-83 home win over Partizan Belgrade.
The Detroit Pistons selected Singler as the third pick in the second round of the 2011 NBA draft, but the 23-year-old power forward joined Spanish side Alicante Lucentum during the July-December lockout in North America.
Unlike most NBA exiles, who returned home after the bitter labour dispute ended earlier this month, Singler opted to stay in Europe and signed with Real Madrid last week.
"It was a surprise for me to start the game after being here for such a short time, just one week," Singler told Euroleague's official website after Real secured top spot in Preliminary Pool C with a match to spare.
"I feel really good on this team, very comfortable. I am happy because I didn't expect to start or play so many minutes in my first Euroleague game, but I have to go step by step," he said.
Real, who have won Europe's premier club competition a record eight times, dominated the match from start to finish as shooting guard Jaycee Carroll led the way with 22 points while forward Nikola Mirotic added 21 and eight rebounds.
CSKA Moscow beat holders Panathinaikos Athens 91-75 at home in a clash of European giants which produced basketball of the highest quality, with much of the action matching NBA standards.
Although their key player and former Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirlenko was in the terraces with a long-term injury, CSKA looked every bit the odds-on favourites to win a seventh title as they stretched their perfect start to nine wins.
"I am very satisfied with our team, I am happy with the way we fought and defended and it was our veterans Ramunas Siskauskas and Viktor Khryapa who led by example," CSKA coach Jonas Kazlauskas said.
"There was some concern about our physical shape as the team is on a slight decline ahead of the Christmas break, but the role players stepped up and helped us," he said.
Italians Montepaschi Siena ended Barcelona's unbeaten run with a 77-74 defeat of the 2010 winners despite missing several starters through injury.
Serbian point guard Igor Rakocevic, who joined Siena in October on a free transfer after the season had started, scored 21 points and delighted his coach Simone Pianigiani.
"We did something special tonight, always believing mentally in getting back in the game even when Barcelona showed a lot of energy in the third quarter and seemed to have the game in their hands," Pianigiani said.
"Our second-placed finish in our pool is much deserved."
Twelve teams have secured berths in the top 16, with the last round of games in the preliminary group stage scheduled for next week before the month-long break.
The top 16 teams will be divided into four groups of four and the top two from each group will advance to the best-of-five quarter-final series, whose winners will qualify for the May 11-13 Final Four in Istanbul. — Reuters
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