The way to Astana predictably turned out to be difficult. After a 5-hour bus run Krasnodar – Stavropol, assistant coach Yurica Zhuzha left the race. I caught a slight cold on the road – and as a result, I did not fly to Kazakhstan. The rest of the team, with the exception of forward Egor Sychkov and point guard Joshi Gray, who also remained in Krasnodar for medical reasons, first flew to Moscow, and the next day only at 19:00 local time reached the final destination. And after a lapidary snack with cookies and nuts, I immediately went to test the parquet of the Saryarka bike track.
If you suddenly don’t follow VTB United League too much, then don’t be surprised by the previous offer. “Astana” has indeed been holding home matches for many years in an arena designed for cycling. When the Loko players went out on the floor, and the club’s press service beat the coaching staff in the traditional fun of “score from the center of the court”, the harsh, wiry velokazakhi were just finishing winding the hundredth or two hundredth of their circles.
There are not many people going to basketball in Kazakhstan – this is partly due to the specifics of the arena, inside which it is convenient to watch the best ball game only from several dozen places located directly next to the playground – but this does not prevent the local team from giving surprises from time to time. So, in February last year, Astana beat Loko in the end, and its then leader Anthony Hickey scored a monstrous triple-double of 43 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
Now, however, Khimki is not in the team from Kazakhstan. And just a couple of days ago it didn’t happen – nothing terrible happened, don’t worry! – and another playmaker, Daniil Aksenov, who will continue his career in the Moscow MBA. Aksenov, who is spending his first season in the VTB United League at the age of 27, gave out very high–quality statistics – 12.3 points, 3.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds.
In his absence, first of all, one should be afraid of the American legionnaires of Astana. Even without Aksenov, this team still has two good playmakers. Point guard Kwame Won leads one of the league rankings – 19 accurate penalties out of 19. Also in his average asset – 11.6 points, 2.5 assists and 2.4 rebounds. Another number one, Markell Johnson, averages 11.1 points, 4.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Well, the third link of the attacking Kazakh-American trident is center Michael Myers, who, with a relatively low height (206 cm), is in second place in the VTB United League in rebounds (8.7) after Nikola Milutinov and is the leader of Astana in performance (12.6 points).
However, many guys from Loko also have a complete order with statistics. Forward DeVon Akun-Purcell leads the league’s list of snipers with 18.5 points per game. Another forward from the USA, Chris Horton, is in the top ten in rebounds, blocked shots and interceptions. But the main thing is that the Krasnodar team objectively surpasses the opponent in terms of team play.
You can cheer for “Loco” at TV screens or computer monitors on the websites lokobasket.com and vtb-league.com , as well as TV channels “Match! Game” and “TV Start”.
We remind you that tickets for Loko’s home matches with Paris NN (February 7) and CSKA (February 10) are already on sale and are flying like a hot beshbarmak. Grab it before they take it apart!