Unics Kazan Hold Off The Fraport Skyliners 72-65 In Eurocup Play

Not every player that wore an NCAA 2 jersey can say that they have had such a stellar and enriching professional career that has brought one to the Euroleague and two training camp outings with the Boston Celtics, but Jamar Smith who averaged 21,6ppg as a senior at S Indiana and shot at a clip of 44% from the parking lot in his last two years can. It even brought him to Bamberg for a season in between the Chris Fleming and Andrea Trinchieri years in the 2013-2014 season. Since then he has become a very good player in Europe having played in France with Limoges, Played Euroleague with Malaga and won the Eurocup in 2017 with the Spanish side and played Eurocup with Russian team Kazan. It was more than four and a half years since he played his only professional game in the Fraport arena where he led all scorers with 18 points and helped Bamberg to a convincing 64-54 victory in a defensive battle that also featured Casey Jacobson in his last professional season. This season Jamar Smith is an instrumental part of the success in the Eurocup with the team´s 8-1 record and is the team´s second leading scorer and shooting an amazing 45% from outside and is the teams scoring leader in the VTB league. Frankfurt rested freak athlete Quantez Robertson and Erik Murphy for the big quarterfinal cup game on Saturday against Braunschweig and the ex Auburn star was disappointed he couldn´t battle Jamar Smith again and was impressed with his 49 Eurocup game streak of at least one three pointer made. “Smith is a heck of a scorer. He has a nice mid range game and can shoot the three. I was looking forward to guarding him, but coach gave me the night off. His 49 game shooting streak is a big accomplishment and shows the type of shooter he is and the confidence that he has as a shooter”, warned Quantez Robertson. After the victory, Smith had no idea of his current streak. “I remember that game four years ago. Frankfurt played us tough for three quarters, the same way they did tonight. It would have been nice to have played against Tez. It is dope that he said that about me. He is a really tough defender and I also would have liked to have played against. Concerning that streak, I´m a shooter and that is what I do. But I hate that you told me that”, smiled Jahmar Smith.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing ex Bamberg guard Jamar Smith

Unics Kazan entered the Fraport arena and met a successful 6-3 Eurocup team Fraport Skyliners, but a poor EasyCredit BBL team as the club had been struggling. The game was meaningless as both clubs had already qualified for the next round and were playing for pride as Unics Kazan set the tone from the start and the Fraport Skyliners had to play catch up all game long and were at eye level in crunch-time, but little mistakes and offensive rebounds that couldn´t lead to buckets cost them the win as they lost 72-65. After the victory, one noticed that ex Georgetown guard Jason Clark was disappointed with the tight loss, but content with the effort that his team gave against the top team of the group. “Overall we fought very well, but this was a game where guys could work to become better. There were good and bad things in this game. We showed flashes of good offense where we moved the ball and got open looks and also had good moments on defense, but we did miss rotations and lacked communication at times. We were unable to take advantage of offensive rebounds that hurt us”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Jason Clark. After the win Canadian national player Melvin Ejim was content with the win and was happy with how the team closed out the win. “We played very well for three quarters. They are a very well coached team and I have played under Gordon Herbert. We didn´t have  a good third quarter, but overall we had good intensity, made good plays and adjusted well in getting the win”, stressed ex Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim.

1,350 fans turned out for a meaningless last round game and saw Russian side Unics Kazan jump all over the Fraport Skyliners early, but the home team did make strides at the end of the first quarter to get back into the game. Both teams traded three´s early as ex ratiopharm Ulm guard Pierria Henry and Jason Clark drilled home trey´s. Unics Kazan then got their offense going while keeping a high intensity on defense that stifled Frankfurt as they went out on a 11-2 run to extend their lead to 14-5. In the run, the Russian club got vital support from Ejim, ex Braunschweig guard Trent Lockett and another trey from Henry. Frankfurt couldn´t muster any offense from any other players except for Jason Clark who scored the team´s first 7 points. Down the stretch, the Fraport Skyliners got some important contribution from their young players Garai Zeeb who hit a trey and Trae Bel-Haynes who hat 4 points to help cut into the Unics Kazan lead. Russian Pavel Sergeev who played in Frankfurt four years earlier in the Eurochallenge with Enisey Krasnoyarsk (VTB) hit a key trey late to keep Frankfurt at bay as they trailed 23-16 as they were lighting it up from outside shooting 80% and had a grip on the boards. “It was tough playing without Tez our anchor and Murphy. But when guys go down others have to step up. It took us a while to get started as we got off to a slow start”, said Jason Clark.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Canadian national player Melvin Ejim

In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners made a little run early to get close to Unics Kazan, but their inconsistency and continued lack of discipline allowed the Russian side to get back to double figures in their lead. 31 year old 204cm big man Maxim Sheleketo who last played for Avtodor got his team on the board with free throws, but then it was the time for German big man Leon Kratzer to propel Frankfurt to new heights. In a span of a few minutes, he totally dominated in the paint leading Frankfurt on a 6-0 run to cut the Unics Kazan lead to 25-22 as he made a tip in and two beautiful old school hook shots. Kratzer was very active on the paint and took full advantage of the extra playing time due to the absence of Erik Murphy while Unics Kazan lost their offensive rhythm and were forcing too many shots. However basketball will always be a game of runs and that Frankfurt run didn´t faze Unics Kazan. But sort of motivated them to fire back at Frankfurt which they did going out on a lethal 7-0 run to extend their lead to 32-22. In the run the Russian side was sparked by the precision shooting of Jamar Smith who was with the Boston Celtics twice, but couldn´t stick nailing two shots while ex Illinois State forward Jackie Carmichael grabbed an offensive rebound and finished with a left handed hook shot. The Fraport Skyliners had too many up and down phases and especially on defense too many break downs as they showed no stability. After a time out, the Fraport Skyliners clamed down a bit and generated better decisions on offense and got some big shots from Clark and Bell Haynes from outside cutting the Unics Kazan lead to 36-30. Frankfurt was unable to dig into the Unics Kazan lead more as Ejim and Carmichael made big shots down the stretch as the Russian team went into the break with the 43-35 advantage. “We were up and down having good and rough patches. Kratzer was big for us at the start. He was very active on the boards and on defense did a good job altering shots”, said Jason Clark. Unics Kazan shot 50% from the two point range and 54% from outside and had 17 rebounds and 5 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 37% form the two point range and 38% from outside and had 21 rebounds and 7 turnovers.

The third quarter was the Fraport Skyliner´s best defensive quarter, but they could really make a big dent in the lead or take advantage of their stops as their offense floundered and couldn´t gain consistency in results of more buckets. The Fraport Skyliners went on a big 8-0 run to dead lock the game at 43-43 while being a steel wall on defense stopping Unics Kazan on 10 consecutive possessions. In the run the Fraport Skyliners received key contribution from Kratzer again as he was a beast in the paint getting three lay in´s. Jason Clark took advantage of good ball movement and scored in the paint. Unics Kazan finally got their first field goal and points of the third quarter at the 2,46 minute mark as 31 year old 205cm Russian Andrey Koscheev who began his career with LenVO Sankt Petersburg (B Superleague) got a lay in after getting the bullet pass from Smith. It took Unics Kazan 7,14 minutes to score their first basket of the third quarter and then 26 seconds later scored their second bucket of the quarter as Unics Kazan practiced the second consecutive back door play as Locket scored getting the dime from Koscheev and Frankfurt trailed 47-43. Frankfurt then got a runner from ex Baylor(NCAA) stand out Brady Heslip and a trey from Finish national player Shawn Huff, but couldn´t get over the hump as Kosheev scored inside and Sergeev nailed a trey as Unics Kazan led 52-48 after the third frame. “We got good looks in the third, but our shots just weren´t falling and couldn´t get to our spots. They played good defense”, added Melvim Ejim. “We didn´t change anything up, but just came out more aggressive. We communicated better on offense and moved better on offense”, stated Jason Clark.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing ex Braunschweig guard Trent Lockett

The fourth quarter was a real old fashioned dog fight where the Fraport Skyliners were on the heels of Unics Kazan, but couldn´t get over the hump in crunch-time. Fraport Skyliners head coach gave young German Richard Freudenberg and young Swede Elijah Clarance more responsibility and they didn´t disappoint as the ex St Johns forward made a turn around shot and before the ex Illinois State guard started making noise with his shooting, he made two terrific assists to center Marco Voeller. Clarance who is a combo guard, but is learning more to play the point has made strides in recent weeks with his court vision and passing abilities. “We have seen his passing before. His athleticism and dunking overshadows his passing. He is a very good passer and once his reading the plays get better so will his passes. We will begin to see more great passes”, warned Jason Clark. With Unics Kazan struggling on offense, Clarance took matters into his own hands scoring 5 points including a trey to cut the Russian team´s lead to 60-59. The Fraport Skyliners offense was really flowing now and their defense was stable and gaining more confidence with each new stop and took the 62-6o lead with a clutch Trae Bell-Haynes trey. The Canadian rookie´s three point shooting has been a work in progress as he is shooting 21% from outside in the easyCredit BBL, but was shooting at a healthy 44,4% clip in the Eurocup. But one has noticed all season long that he doesn´t crave taking three´s, but tries to avoid them. Against Unics Kazan he nailed 2/3 three´s and looked a lot more confident than usual. “His confidence is getting better with each new shot made. The difference is that he is putting in more work. He is staying after practice and coming before practice and coming in on off days to work on his shot. That is what you have to do to keep a rhythm and  stay consistent. The more he sees the ball going in, the more confident he will get”, warned Jason Clark. But the Fraport Skyliners just couldn´t build on this huge three as they allowed Unics Kazan to close out the game with a 12-3 run to win the game. Unics Kazan executed well on offense as Smith made a difficult looking bank shot which was followed by a Carmichael lay in and Evgeny Kolesnikov who is a 33 year old forward who played with Enisey Krasnoyarsk (VTB) in this arena four years ago in an exciting Eurochallenge quarterfinal game made a lay in and free throws which was the seventh consecutive point and 67-62 lead for Unics Kazan. Heslip then answered with a beautiful lay in high off the glass to put some hope into the minds of Frankfurt, but that was quickly erased by a Carmichael basket for the 69-64 Unics Kazan advantage. Carmichael finished with 10 points and has adjusted well after recently joining the team. “He is a aggressive player and fits his role well. He has been a big help on defense and has played a significant role for us”, stated Melvin Ejim. Frankfurt then mastered two big offensive rebounds, but couldn´t take advantage of two good looks as 35 year old 206cm Konstantin Kaimakoglou who won the 2011 Euroleague with Panathinaikos Athens made a trey closing the door on the Fraport Skyliners. “We made big plays and shots at the end. Kaimakoglou hit a big shot and our defensive stops held them back”, stated Melvin Ejim. “They hit a couple of tough three´s and we couldn´t take advantage of two good looks, which could of changed the game”, added Jason Clark. Unics Kazan was led by Pierria Henry with 14 points while Jackie Carmichael added 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Leon Kratzer with 13 points and 11 boards and Jason Clark and Trae Bell_Haynes added 12 points a piece. Unics Kazan shot 51% from the two point range and 43% from the three point line and hauled down 36 rebounds and coughed up the ball 14 times while the Fraport Skyliners shot 46% form the two point line and 30% from the three point line and hauled down 34 rebounds and coughed up the ball 10 times.

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