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From Belgorod, with (basket) Love!

By Nikos Varlas

When Russia was still a basketball superpower and the Soviet Union still united, Aleksey Shved was born! And the fame of the child from Belgorod was spread so fast, that CSKA Moscow gave him a contract before he was 18 years old.

Even when his was just 12 years old he was regularly playing against older players, because his talent was above his age. He was the top scorer in many tournaments for youngsters, he was the leader of the junior Russian national teams and everybody was talking about the guard with the great offensive game. But nobody was more of a true believer of Shved, than Aleksey himself!

He is 6’6 ft tall, he… loves the number “23”, the same one that he is still wearing in CSKA Moscow, and the testimonials for him in a young age, described a child that was feeling like a little “czar” and he stuck out from the rest of the Russian basketball projects.

In the NBA it was expected that he will be drafted, there was excitement about his game, and there were analysts that compered him to Penny Hardaway! All this until Ettore Messina entered the life of Aleksey.

The Italian coach put him on a “black list” in 2006, he couldn’t tolerate Shved’s indifference about defense and the young Russian “offense above all” attitude. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was that the player was sulking every time he was yelled at. There are many stories from the practices of CSKA, when there were stars in Moscow like Smodis, Holden, Papaloukas and Langdon, and Shved was always the target of Messina’s criticism. “His body is too weak for the top basketball level”, said the coach and he wasn’t wrong at the time.

The Italian refused to use Shved in CSKA. In two season the player appeared in just five games, and the problems continued when Evgeni Pashoutin was the new coach in the summer of 2009.

For six months Shved was loaned to Dinamo Moscow and then he returned to the champions of Russia. But from that moment, he exploded! His minutes increased, he was a starter for the Russian national team in the last Eurobasket and he is having a great season in Euroleague, forming a great backcourt with his old opponent in the junior national teams, the Serbian Milos Teodosic.

This duo will dominate for many years the European basketball, but already, after the end of Euroleague Top 16, has shown more than flashes of greatness. Both players have a total ranking of 179, but in the average statistics Shved seems a little better than Teodosic, because he has a little less playing time than the Serbian.

Shved is averaging 11,2 points, 3,8 assists, 2,3 rebounds and a shooting percentage of 50% (26/52) in threes! Only Jaycee Carroll and Henry Domercant, two dedicated “gunslingers”, are better than him in threes by just 1%. “He is amazing in offense, he creates and knows the pick and roll, but he must take better decisions and learn how to play defense”, was the scouting report in 2008, when he was expected to be selected in the NBA draft, even in the first round.

Messina did a good “disappearing act” on him and he was out of the map. But four years latter the name “Shved” is hot again and his game is improved in every aspect. Maybe, because he feels that his talent is appreciated.

Down the road it seems that he will have an other chance to be in the NBA and he will have to make a life changing decision. Europe, or the NBA; Those who are close to him believe that he will give NBA a try, if there is an a good offer for him.

The funny thing is that, in the end of the day, Messina helped him in every level, even in his possible career in the NBA! Shved is a free agent, nobody has any draft rights on him, so he can choose to play where ever he likes, without the limits of rookie salary scale, Not bad after all…

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