Center quartet shows the way for Valencia

Jan 07, 2022 by Print
Center quartet shows the way for Valencia

Some say that basketball has become a game of guards, but Valencia Basket features a four-headed monster in the middle that a lot of teams must envy. And that quartet of big men showed once again on Thursday why they hold a major key to the Spanish club's quest to win a record fifth 7DAYS EuroCup title.

Jasiel Rivero scored 24 points while Bojan Dubljevic picked up 2 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists, Jaime Pradilla had 8 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists, and Mike Tobey chipped in 6 points and 4 rebounds in Valencia's 86-68 victory over Frutti Extra Bursaspor in a Round 7 make-up game.

The centers also played a major role in Valencia dominating the glass 47 to 28, including 15 offensive rebounds for the home side which led to a 17-4 advantage in second-chance points.

It's a luxury that Valencia head coach Joan Peñarroya has used all season. His big men are combining for 37.6 points, 20.5 rebounds – 7.4 from the offensive glass – and 6.1 assists. Their combined performance index rating of 47.8 is well over half of what 12 entire EuroCup teams average.

The 28-year-old Rivero took over the main scoring role against Bursaspor with his career-high of 24 points. The Cuban big man made 8 of 11 shots and 8 of 11 free throws while also picking up 3 rebounds and 1 steal for a PIR of 28, the best of this, his rookie season in the EuroCup. It was a welcome sight for Valencia and its supporters as Rivero had only combined for 7 points in his previous two EuroCup games.

Dubljevic, the face of the Valencia franchise, has seen a decrease in his numbers so far this season. He had averaged at least 10.4 points every EuroLeague and EuroCup over the last 10 years save for the 9.8 points he tallied last season in the EuroLeague. This season, the 30-year-old Montenegrin is averaging 7.0 points a game after scoring just 3 points total in the last two. Against Bursaspor, Dubljevic took just 2 field goal attempts and scored his only basket with 31 seconds left.

This is Bojan Dubjlevic, the EuroCup's all-time leading scorer, who stands just 6 points shy of the 1,500-point mark. He also ranks second in field goals attempted among more than a handful of stats where he is among the top three in EuroCup history. And yet, Dubljevic remains an important part of Valencia's production. On Thursday, he dished a career-high 7 assists, equalling teammate Sam Van Rossom for the most in the game, and collected a team-best 12 rebounds, one shy of his personal best.

Pradilla, who turned 21 on Monday, has started in five of Valencia's eight games, more than any of the others, and ranks fourth in the EuroCup in PIR per 40 minutes, at 31.9 per game. Against Bursaspor, he made 3 of 3 two-pointers and 2 of 2 free throws while splitting his 6 boards on either end of the floor in 16 very efficient minutes.

Tobey is still finding his way back from injury after making his season debut in Round 6. The 27-year-old showed in that game against Umana Reyer Venice what he can do, with 16 points and 8 rebounds. He also had 8 points and 6 rebounds in the Round 8 match-up with Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana. Toby was third on the team last year in average PIR and stands to be even more dangerous soon.

All four are different kinds of centers, too, which allows Penarroya to mix and match them in games to best combat the opposing team's frontline, making Valencia's quartet of big men one to envy for many teams in Europe.