The new Ukrainian basketball federation president Mikhail Brodskiy confirmed that Evgen Murzin is going to be the new coach of the national team for the upcoming Eurobasket and the big bet now is called Alex Len. The new president is trying to lure the center of the Phoenix Suns and make him the new star of the team in the post coach Fratello era.
American head coach Mike Fratello won’t lead the Ukrainian National Team at Eurobasket 2015. The coach leaves the bench of Ukraine.
And back home, the fighting goes on despite a supposed cease fire in a war Len knew was “getting worse each day.” He chooses no side. “I’m Ukrainian and I won’t go against Russia, too. I’m right in the middle,” Len said. “I just want peace for everybody. I just don’t want people to die.”
He has brought his mother to live with him. His grandparents came for a short time, but the culture change was too much for them, he said, so they returned home. “My grandparents right now are right in the middle of a war zone,” he said. “I tried to get them to stay over here, but you know how old people are. For them it was too big a change.” No one in his family has been hurt in the fighting, Len said, “thank God.”
Alex Len’s grandparents can hear the gunfire from their home in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been in fierce fighting with Ukrainian forces. Local police have abandoned his hometown, leaving gangs to roam the streets and terrorize residents. A half-world away, the 21-year-old center is showing he belongs in the NBA, displaying the skills that led the Phoenix Suns chose him fifth overall in the 2013 draft. “When I play it’s like a different world, just basketball,” he said. “Definitely off the court it’s sad. …Two years ago it was one country. Now all of a sudden people divide, separate themselves, like we’re different.”
“Some NBA players will come [to Eurobasket] others will not, but we don’t have that many NBA players in Ukraine. “We used to have Slava [Viacheslav Kravtsov] in the NBA, who is now playing in China and we have a young player right now, [Phoenix Suns center] Alex Len, who has not yet played for the national team.
The cautious Fratello will not be drawn into predictions or thoughts about Ukraine’s chances in this group so soon before the draw for the tournament was made clear, and especially before he has a good idea on the composition of his team’s roster. “If you ask how many games can we win in this group, I think the preparation is going to be very important, for any of these teams,” he said. “If I could tell you right now who is going to show up and play for us in the summer, it would make it easier to talk about my team.”
He estimated he spends three or four hours a day communicating on Skype with family and friends to keep up to date on what’s happening with them and with his country. “It’s a huge concern for me,” he said. “If the conflict will resolve itself, I’ll be the happiest person in the world.” He was asked if it was unsettling to watch his country being split by the crisis. “It is. I think war is the outdated solution to any conflict,” said Fesenko, a 2007 second-round pick by Philadelphia who was traded to Utah and played four seasons for the Jazz. He hasn’t played regularly in the NBA since 2011. “It’s just ridiculous and stupid and I’m very worried about my mom, my wife, all my friends. Two of my friends already enlisted in the army and I really don’t want that to happen. I’m all up for fighting the good cause, but I just don’t want to lose any of my childhood friends.”
He is a half-world away from a home he last visited in August, but he’s reminded of the conflict every time he thinks of a neighbor who was killed when a Malaysia Airlines jet mistakenly was shot down over the country in July. “It was really tragic. That’s when it actually finally hit me that it’s for real,” Fesenko said. “That it’s not somewhere out there.”