News from and about Ukraine & Ukrainians: Ukrainian Community Press Releases
BRAMA, April 11, 2002, 10 am ET
Basketball playing Ukrainians meet in Boston
In a recent Fox Sports piece an announcer marveled at the degree to which the NBA (National Basketball Association) has been blessed by internationalization. He also lamented that this process has also raised the challenges of properly pronouncing players' names. Players these days not only come from the rural reaches of the states of Indiana and Missouri, but also from Congo, China, Turkey, Georgia, Yugoslavia, and Russia, among others. To make sure that this United Nations of Basketball is complete there are two players from Ukraine - Vitaly Potapenko (Po-TAH-pen-ko) of the Boston Celtics and Stanislav Medvedenko (Med-ve-DEN-ko) of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Both athletes got their start playing for teams in Kyiv, though Potapenko's was several years earlier than Medvedenko's. After concurrently studying at Kyiv State University and playing for one of the city's club teams for two years (the university does not sponsor basketball) in his second two college years Vitaly Potapenko played at and graduated from Wright State University in Dayton Ohio earning the nickname "The Ukraine Train" for his solid contributions. From there he has spent the last seven years playing in the NBA, three years for the Cleveland Cavaliers and now in his fourth season for the Boston Celtics, currently ranking number 4 in the league in offensive rebounds.
Being several years younger Stanislav Medvedenko's basketball playing resume is somewhat shorter than Vitaly's. Nevertheless, he has made great strides. In the 1999-2000 season prior to playing in the NBA Stanislav played for B.C. Kyiv where he averaged 21.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Shepherded by Aleksandr Volkov, a "basketball eminence grise" (the first player from Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union to sign an NBA contract to play for the Atlanta Hawks) Stanislav signed a two-year contract in 2000 with one of the greatest NBA teams - the Los Angeles Lakers. Even though the Lakers are dominated by strong players such as Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and Rick Fox Stanislav's presence is increasing moving from playing an average 5.6 minutes per game to 10.3, playing as much as 26 at a recent (4/3/02) Lakers-Nets game, and scoring a high of 18 points on 12/14/01 vs the LA Clippers.
On Friday April 5th these two players' teams faced off in Boston. Neither started but each participated in the game with Stanislav playing 16 minutes, scoring 6 points and making 5 rebounds; and Vitaly playing 11 minutes, scoring 4 points and having two rebounds. Just prior to the game the Lakers announced that their star center would not play due to a sore wrist. This hurt the Lakers game considerably and the Celtics ran the game in each of the four quarters winning 99 - 81.
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