After a slow start to the 7DAYS EuroCup season, former champion Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar has turned on its engines. The team has won two of its last three games and showed its mettle this week with a big home win against Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem. Add a victory over reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion CSKA Moscow in VTB League action just a few days earlier and it seems like Lokomotiv is catching good form as the season gets into its most important stretch.
Lokomotiv knows that it still has plenty of room for improvement, especially knowing that one of the players raising his own level of play is sharp-shooting forward Ryan Broekhoff, the lone starter left from a historic 2015-16 campaign, in which the club went all the way to the EuroLeague Final Four.
Broekhoff, who started every game last season, has mostly come off the bench this season and is still looking for his long range shot to start falling the way it did in the past, but has still managed to hit at least 1 three-point shot in each of the last four games. He has also found other ways to contribute with Broekhoff serving as the team’s second-best rebounder with 5.7 per night; he collected a career-high 12 boards on Wednesday, which not only led all players in the competition in Round 9, but also helped Lokomotiv convincingly beat Jerusalem.
This 26-year old Broekhoff has been among the most-dangerous long-distances shooters in Europe over the past few seasons. He made an impressive 47.2% of his three-point attempts in the EuroLeague last season and sank 36 of 72 three-pointers (50%) in the 2014-15 EuroCup with Besiktas Istanbul.
Broekhoff has come practically around the world playing basketball, from Australia through Valporaiso University in the United States to his first pro years in Turkey and then to Russian side Lokomotiv. And while some in Europe might have been caught off-guard with his great performances when he first arrived, one person who was not surprised by his success is Broekhoff's mother Jo Toebelman, a former top-level player in Australian League. She is the one who passed the love for the sport of basketball to her son.
“There’s a story she always says that at a local game she’d always take us, me and my brother and two sisters, and they’d be chasing each other running around doing what kids do, but I’d be there on the bench just watching the game going back and forth, picking up a basketball, which was the size of me and trying to shoot it up to the hoop!” Broekhoff said. “It’s something she’s always reminded me about."
His father picked up basketball in his late teenage years and briefly played professionally, and his uncle played, too. But the passion for basketball and influence on Ryan’s development as a player came mostly from females: his mother, but also his aunt, who coached one of the first teams he was on.
“It was a long time ago, but that was a lot of fun, she made the game fun for everyone,” Broekhoff said. “Everyone played equal minutes, it was all about just going out there and enjoying the game and getting to play basketball."
Not to be omitted from the feminine influence on Broekhoff's basketball are his two sisters, who helped their brother’s competitive spirit in pick-up games at the back of their house. “We would play 2-on-1, there were certain rules and stuff where they couldn't cheat and beat me, but that's something we did quite often in the back yard," Broekhoff laughed.
His family naturally follows Broekhoff's progress each step of the way, but from a long distance now, watching his games online and recording games that are on TV. “They’ve always been really important to me, especially my mother growing up,” he said.
His mother is up late night and early morning hours for games, watching streams, looking for box scores. She managed to come over to Europe to see what it is like, and she still feels free to give him advice. “Once I started to play regularly and play in good competitions, my mom became more a fan and then a mentor on the side. After games she wanted to know what I thought about how I played, and then what she saw, just more encouraging after that," Broekhoff said.
Fittingly, it was her advice that Ryan values and has kept in mind throughout his career. "She said to always enjoy [basketball]. If I don’t enjoy it and don’t have a passion for it go and find something else,” Broekhoff explained. “Go out there enjoy playing basketball, being with friends, playing the friends, and if I ever lose that, don’t force it, don’t become miserable playing."