OKULAJA: ENDS REHAB, OFF TO RUSSIA
* Ademola Okulaja announced last week that he is ending his stay with the German club RheinEnergie Cologne to accept an offer from BC Khimki of the Russian Superleague.
Okulaja, 31, recently completed a lengthy recovery from a knee injury using the facilities of RheinEnergie Cologne. His return to the court in Germany included playing in three games for Cologne and as a German League all-star participant as he started and scored 21 points last week in the game played in Cologne, Germany.
"It's with deep sadness that I leave this city and this club. I cannot speak highly enough of the organization, the team and the fans," Okulaja said, according to RheinEnergie's official web site. "But I have decided to move abroad again and simply could not turn down the offer from Khimki."
Okulaja rated the offer to play with international stars like Ruben Wolkowisky (Argentina) and Oscar Torres (Venezuela) as too good to turn down. He is also hoping to be back with the German national team in time for the FIBA 2006 World Championship in Japan, which begins in August. Okulaja was forced to miss the 2005 Eurobasket with Germany due to his knee injury.
In addition to playing for BC Khimki in Russia, Okulaja is eligible to play for Khimki in the current FIBA EuroCup competition.
BUCKNALL GOES O.T. PLUS
* Former Tar Heel Steve Bucknall couldn't have seen this coming when he signed with the DMU Leicester Riders in England for his 17th pro season. But there he was two weeks ago in Leicester, England, taking part in the longest game in the history of the British Basketball League.
The game went five overtimes (65 minutes) before the Brighton Bears (10-12) finally downed the Riders (13-9) 107-101. Bucknall, who will be 40 in Marc,) was on the court for 53 minutes with 20 points (5-13 FG, 2-6 3PT, 8-10 FT), eight boards, six assists and three steals. Georgia Tech's Anthony McHenry accounted for 11 points for the Riders in 52 minutes and had a potential game-winning dunk waved off at the end of regulation for being after the buzzer.
Prior to that game, the Brighton Bears had been courting former NBA star Dennis Rodman to join the team. Turns out Rodman missed the historic five-OT affair since he had not been exiled from the UK's "Celebrity Big Brother House" TV show yet. Since being voted out of the "House," Rodman has played a BBL game for Brighton.
There's another unexpected event coming up for Bucknall. England Basketball has named Bucknall, a veteran of international competition for England, to the 12-man team that will participate in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, in March. Former NBA player John Amaechi (Penn State) is also on the team that will represent England.
Through January 22, Bucknall had played in 21 BBL games for 32.4 minutes per game with averages of 9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He's an 88.1 percent (37-42) free-throw shooter and a 35.1 percent (26-74) shooter on three-pointers.
JAWAD MEETS SHAMMOND IN SPAIN
* Yesterday in Spain, a couple of former Tar Heels lined up on opposing sides in a key Spanish League (ACB) basketball game. Jawad Williams was with the host Alta Gestion (High Management) Fuenlabrada. Shammond Williams showed up for visiting Winterthur F.C. Barcelona.
Fuenlabrada (11-8, 7th) battled but eventually fell to Barcelona (14-5, 1st) 87-82. In his 13th game of the season Jawad Williams played 16 minutes with six rebounds and two points (1-5 FG). For the season the rookie from North Carolina is averging 17 minutes, 6.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Shammond has been a mainstay for Barcelona since he arrived and yesterday was no different. The ex-Tar Heel guard came up with eight assists to go along with 11 points (3-11 FG, 5-7 FT) and three rebounds in 32 minutes to help FCB regain sole possession of first-place in the ACB.
Shammond has played 29.8 mpg in 17 Spanish League games. He is averaging 12 ppg, 4.9 apg and made 45 percent of his threes (32-77) and 86 percent of his free throws (32-37).
In addition to his basketball duties, Jawad Williams recently represented his team at a national convention of FIAT Auto Dealers, along with current teammate Tom Wideman (Clemson), near Madrid, Spain. The American basketball players met with owners and employees of FIAT dealerships located in Spain during the day. They also presented prizes to those being recognized for having the best sales records.
SCOTT NOW PLAYING IN ICELAND
* After a preseason tryout in Greece and a three-game stint in Germany, UNC grad Melvin Scott has landed in Iceland. Scott played his first game last week for KR Reykjavik of the Iceland Express League.
KR Reykjavik (Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland) lost the game 95-92 and fell to 10-5 as Scott played 18 minutes and scored seven points while shooting 2-11 from the field (1-1 3PT) and 2-4 on free throws. Former Hoosier A.J. Moye led the opposition with 31 points and eight rebounds.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams mentioned on a recent radio show that Scott had departed Chapel Hill to resume his pro career in Iceland. Coach Williams also noted that, "Jackie Manuel is in Chapel Hill. He's had two surgeries on his foot and started working out the last two weeks. I think his basketball is done for this year, but hopefully he'll be able to try again next year. Jawad is in Spain playing and appears to be doing very, very well."
TEASLEY HONORED OVERSEAS
* Former UNC star guard Nikki Teasley of MKB Euroleasing Sopron (Hungary) has been named the EuroLeague Women's Player of the Week.
Teasley's Hungarian club took on the 2003 EuroLeague champs, UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia), in a match-up that favored the Russian team, who not only had the homecourt advantage, but had beaten Sopron twice in preliminary round action.
But, Teasley led Sopron to two wins in the span of three days and earned her team a trip to the EuroLeague quarterfinal playoffs in the upset of the round.
Teasley did whatever Sopron needed to win versus Ekaterinburg, a team she played for in 2004. In Game 1 of the best-of-three series she scored 14 points, grabbed 10 boards and had seven assists in an 80-77 road win to take the homecourt advantage away from the Russians.
Three days later when Sopron had the chance to end the series it was Teasley who inspired the team to an 89-79 win, according to the report by fibaeurope.com, with a game high 27 points on 6-13 shooting from behind the arc. Sopron will now take on Valenciennes (France) in the EuroLeague Women's quarterfinal playoffs.
Teasley's stellar play overseas has also garnered her an all-star team berth. She is among 24 players that will take part in the first ever EuroLeague Women's All-Star Game.
The ELW All-Star Game will be played on March 8th in Pecs, Hungary and will feature some of the biggest names in women's basketball with Europe's top stars taking on a "Rest of the World" select team.
Teasley's teammates in that game include Diana Taurasi of Dynamo Moscow (Russia), Katie Douglas of Lietuvos (Lithuania) and De Lisha Milton of Gambrinus Brno (Czech Republic).
COACH SMITH, FORD, JORDAN AMONG TAR HEELS BORN IN FEBRUARY
- 3: Steve Hale (42)
- 3: Melvin Scott (24)
- 6: John Kuester (51)
- 7: Mike O'Koren (48)
- 9: Jessica Sell (22)
- 9: Phil Ford (50)
- 9: Steve Previs (56)
- 10: Tom LaGarde (51)
- 14: Orlando Melendez (27)
- 17: Michael Jordan (43)
- 18: Scott Cherry (35)
- 19: Jawad Williams (23)
- 23: Lee Shaffer (67)
- 24: Donald Williams (33)
- 25: Matt Doherty (44)
- 25: Ray Respess
- 27: David Noel (22)
- 27: James Worthy (45)
- 28: Dean Smith (75)
- 28: Sylvia Hatchell (54)
- 28: Quentin Thomas (20)