NBA TAR HEELS AT A GLANCE
* Here's a statistical breakdown on the former North Carolina players now in the NBA in games played prior to the All-Star break ...
* All-Star Game Update: The East registered a 122-120 come-from-behind win over the West in Houston, Sunday night. For the East, Vince Carter, named as a starter for the injured Jermaine O'Neal, scored five points (2-5 FG, 1-2 FT) with four boards and two assists in 18 minutes. Rasheed Wallace, a reserve along with three other Detroit Pistons, scored two points (1-6 FG, 0-4 3PT) and had two rebounds in 17 minutes.
OKULAJA MEETS THE RUSSIAN PRESS
* It was a good start in Russia on Saturday for Ademola Okulaja. His new club, BC Khimki of Russia's Moscow Region, rolled to an 85-75 victory as Okulaja made his debut with two three-pointers on his way to scoring eight points in 12 minutes on the court. That makes Khimki 14-3 and in second place in the Superleague behind traditional power CSKA (The Red Army) Moscow (16-2).
In an interview conducted by the Russian correspondent for eurobasket.com prior to his debut in Russia, Okulaja responded on the following topics ...
On starting in Russia so late in the season: "I had a knee injury (damaged meniscus), so I was out for some time. Recovery took longer than my doctors expected. A mistake was done during surgery, but my leg is okay now."
On attending North Carolina: "The university gave to me not only basketball, but also a good education. This kind of combination is impossible in Europe. In the United States, North Carolina is one of the best in basketball. Dean Smith was one of the best coaches in college basketball. You have to listen very carefully when he talks. During my time there I got to play with Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Shammond Williams and Jeff McInnis."
On not being in the NBA: "I wasn't drafted and I signed with Philadelphia, but I'm not the kind of man who is going to just sit around and wait for a spot on the [active] roster. I was young, I wanted to play, so I asked them to let me go to Spain and sign with Girona."
On being injured and not playing for Germany at the 2005 European Championship: "I was virtually destroyed when I heard I couldn't play. It was difficult for me to not support my national team where I played for ten years. It was a joy for us to play together and I lost out due to an injury. I was so proud of them when they got silver medals."
On learning the Russian language: "First of all, Khimki is an international team, but we do not have problems with communications. Our head coach speaks fluent Spanish and a couple of players as well, and all of us speak English. I have an option in my contract for next year, so I'll start learning Russian once I'm sure about returning next season."
Khimki and Okulaja began a FIBA EuroCup quarterfinal best-of-three series against Dexia Mons-Hainaut, a Belgian team that features Omar Cook (St. John's) and George Evans (George Mason), yesterday.
Khimki took the opener 91-65 with Okulaja going 1-3 from the field for two points in 13 minutes. Cook was the game's leading scorer with 24 (2-4 2PT, 5-11 3PT) along with four assists and three steals. Evans tossed in 17 points. Game 2 is on Friday in Belgium.
You can always checkout his multilingual website at www.okulaja.com to keep up on the multilingual Okulaja.
ITALIAN LEAGUE TAR HEELS
* Not sure how close they are to the Winter Olympics currently going on in Torino, Italy, but there are four former Tar Heels playing pro basketball in Italy's top league. Here's a look at their statistics in Lega A games:
- Dante Calabria (Armani Jeans Milano, 12-8, t-7th): 20 games, 29.0 mpg, 13.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 88-187 FG (.471), 54-116 3PT (.466), 42-52 FT (.808)
- Jason Capel (Roseto Sharks Basket, 6-14, t-14th): 10 games, 34.9 mpg, 17.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 53-106 FG (.500), 11-35 3PT (.314), 55-67 FT (.821) ... Joined team nine games into the season, missed one game due to injury.
- Vasco Evtimov (Upea Capo d'Orlando, 5-15, 16th): Has not played yet. Was recently added to the roster after passing medical tests for a leg injury.
- Kris Lang (VidiVici Bologna, 12-8, t-7th): 20 games, 21.6 mpg, 10.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.8 bpg, 83-131 FG (.634), 0-1 3PT, 36-58 FT (.621)
The Italian League has 18 teams and each team will play 34 games during the regular season. This weekend the schedule has Roseto (Capel) hosting Milano (Calabria).