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The Two Sides of Ivan Chiriaev

By Matt Scobel
Pictures and Contribution from Andrew Mekbeb

May 10th, 2004

Never in the history of Canadian sports has a basketball player traveled to both extremes of public opinion in such a limited amount of time. Unless youve been under a rock for the past few months, you probably know who Ivan Chiriaev is. The 7-1 sensation from St. Thomas Aquinas High school in Oakville, ON by way of St. Petersburg Russia burst his way onto the NBA draft scene when scouts, the media, and even himself started talking about a 7-1 player with the unheard of ability play the point even at the NBA level. At this point Ivan was nothing more than a humble, hard working kid who was rumored to have committed to the University of Kentucky the following season. At that point he was a player that was ready to go to college unless he was a top three pick in the upcoming draft. Something happened along the way. Weve all heard the quotes. We know by now that Ivan feels the NBA wants and needs him that he can be better than Dirk Nowitzki, and there is no other player his size that can do what he can do. But where does it all come from?

The Case Against Ivan
Exhibit A
When they come to talk with me after practice, NBA agents or scouts tell me I'm a special player. You know, I'm 7-foot-1 and I can play the point.
Exhibit B
I like Kevin Garnett a lot, but everybody is telling me I'm like Dirk Nowitzki, that we are similar. But I think I can be better than Nowitzkibecause I can play all 5 positions

Ivan Chiriaev has to deal with something new every day, another person with another agenda. Scouts tell him that hes good enough to be in the NBA, in hopes of their teams being able to grab him late in the draft. It makes them, the organization, look good, and more importantly it makes the scout looks good. His advisors, coaches, and people around him tell him hes a better prospect than this player, or more skilled then that player. And who is Ivan not to believe them? And there you have the development of what most people can only describe as an over inflated ego. But what does Ivan say when you get him out of the spotlight, when your talking to him one on one?

The next few years are going to be the hardestI know its really different; its like high, high, high level basketball.

Now thats starting to sound more like a kid who realizes how difficult it is to jump from American High School ball to the NBA, let alone from Canadian High school ball to the NBA.

The best players from the whole world are playing there (The NBA). Right now I know Im not really ready to play right now. I have to get as much experience as I can. Right now playing against the best basketball players is going to be very hard. I think in a few years I can develop myself to be a better basketball player.

Now we are getting somewhere. If you dig a little deeper you will soon find out Ivan Chiriaev is nothing more than a humble, hard working kid whos been told hes good enough to be in the NBA and has no good reason not to believe it. At this level, the NBA draft is about hype. Its a chess game played by several players; all interested in advancing their own positions and not worried about who they destroy along the way. This same sort of thing has been happening under our noses for the last few years, with a magnitude of European kids who were the next Dirk Nowitzki, the next Peja Stojakovic, or next Arvydas Sabonis. The difference is when they are playing 5,000 miles away in Europe and unable to even get off the bench for their respective teams. All we have is grainy edited video, hyped up scouting reports, and hearsay to help us form our opinions.

Not this guy. For Ivan Chiriaev, who has Canadian and US Media sitting in his backyard, there is no place to hide his deficiencies. The fact of the matter is Ivan is not ready to be a star in the NBA; in fact he is no where near being ready to even contribute in the NBA. However, despite what some NBA scouts, and countless media would have you believe, he does have a future. You cant teach size, and you cant teach some of the natural god given talent that Mr. Chiriaev has. Whats important, is that he continues to work and finds and NBA team that is realistic and is willing give him time to develop theres no doubt he has a future.

In the mess of all this, there are few things that weve forgotten. First, Ivan Chiriaev is still arguably the best high school basketball prospect to come out of Canada. Second, hes opened the doors for a large magnitude of Europeans to come to Canada, get their high school education and have the opportunity to pursue their basketball careers either in high school or in the NBA. Any attention, recognition and ultimately success Ivan has at any level is good for basketball in Canada.

Jerry Sokoloski

Birthdate: 5/6/83
Ht: 7-5
Wt: 316
Position: Center
Class: Senior
College: None
High School: Ineligible
Hometown: Toronto, Canada

NBA Comparisons:

Optimistic Outlook: Slavko Vranes
Pessimistic Outlook: Andre the Giant

Strengths: Monstrous size. A legitimate 7'5" with an enormous frame. He is a shot blocking threat because of his size. Working hard to get in shape and has dropped over 100 pounds. Has really improved his skills in recent years. Has truly dedicated himself to the game of basketball. Shooting touch is surprisingly decent.

Weaknesses: Absolutely no athletic ability whatsoever. Moves like a sloth and has horrible conditioning. Can't even run up and down the court once without getting winded. Only averaged 10 minutes a game in high school because of his pitiful stamina. Horrible quickness and agility, even for his size. Lacks any kind of explosiveness and has a 10 inch vertical at best. Needs A LOT of work on his basketball skills. Has incredibly awkward footwork and limited low post moves. Loses the ball almost everytime he decides to dribble the ball. Even with his great size, he will still need to greatly improve his skills and conditioning for NBA scouts to even consider drafting him.

-Rick Johnson

Jerry Sokoloski is a 21 year old 7'5" 350 lb Canadian. He has tremendous size but unfortunately that is about the extent of his basketball talent. Sokoloski has the athleticism and mobility of a sloth. He literally struggles to run up and down the court once without getting winded. Sokoloski would make Greg Ostertag look like Carl Lewis. Not only does he lack conditioning and athleticism he also lacks basketball skills. He has no low post moves and horrible footwork. His ball handling skills are so awkward it is comical. The only way he ever scores is off of putbacks and open dunks. Unless Sokoloski REALLY REALLY improves his game there is no chance he will ever make the NBA. There is a better chance of him becoming the next 'Bachelor' then there is of him ever playing NBA basketball.

#23 Olu Famutimi

Guard/Forward 6-5 207
Freshman HS Flint, Mich. (Northwestern HS)

2003-04 Preview:
Like Ronnie Brewer, Olu Famutimi (O-lou Fam-oo-team-ee) also earned high school All-America honors, making teams selected by both McDonald's and Parade. A natural wing player, he will see significant playing time at that position for the Razorbacks, but he is also versatile enough to play small forward and shooting guard.
His senior season was cut short by a right knee injury, but he recovered over the summer and practiced with the team in August in preparation for the trip to Cancun, Mexico, where the Hogs played four exhibition games against a club pro team and a local university over Labor Day weekend. He played in three games, averaging 4.8 points and 4.3 rebounds.

In High School:
As a senior, he earned McDonald's and Parade All-America honors after averaging 25.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.0 steals per game. He also earned all-city, all-state and MVP honors for Coach David Bush.
As a junior, Famutimi, who grew up in Toronto, Ontario, averaged 23.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.0 blocked shots, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals a game.
According to ESPN, he is the sixth-best player in the nation. listed him as a five-star prospect and the No. 4 shooting guard in the country, and rated him the No. 17 overall prospect in the nation. Hoop Scoop magazine listed him as the No. 7 senior prospect in the nation and the No. 3 participant at the adidas ABCD Camp. Prep Stars Recruiters Handbook and Van Colemans FutureStars rated him the No. 11 overall prospect in the country. While playing AAU ball for the Michigan Hurricanes, he was named to the adidas Big Time All-Tournament team.
In seven AAU tournament prior to his senior season, he was named MVP three times and he tied Kobe Bryants record with 40 points in the ABCD Adidas All-American Camp All-Star Game. At Rick Barretts Annual Gym Rats Midnight Madness at Cherry Hill, N.J., in September 2002, he had 37 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Born Feb. 21, 1984, he is the son of Yemi and Margret Famutimi. He was born in Toronto, Ontario, and has one sister. "O-boy" is majoring in business management.
Import lifts Cardozo

Davis dazzles with triple-double

Cardozo's Theo Davis pulls down one of his 15 rebounds.
All of this is new to Theo Davis. Coming from the North York section of Toronto, Davis played in a school league as competitive as the PSAL, but never experienced heated intraborough rivalries between schools like Cardozo and Bayside.

Yesterday, that all changed.

Davis scored 24 points, blocked 16 shots and had 15 rebounds to lead Cardozo to a 76-63 win at Bayside.

"It was really fast-paced and the crowd really gets into it," said Davis, who lives with his aunt here. "It's not what I am used to, but it was really fun. I like it."

Davis, considered a top-10 recruit his junior year, relocated to New York to test himself against better competition and play under pressure situations he could not find in Canada.

Yesterday, Bayside accommodated him with both. With Bayside's gym filled and loud, the Commodores, though undersized, used a zone defense to keep the Judges (5-0) in check.

Even with seniors Ryan Leak and Tyrone Dulin in early foul trouble, Bayside was tied with the Judges, 31-31, at the half.

But Cardozo pulled away with an 11-3run to open the second half. The Commodores, who were led by Dulin's 11 points and Leak's 10, cut the Judges' lead to 48-44, but would get no closer.

"At halftime, I told them that there is a core group of seniors here that really have to start stepping up," Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio said. "I am not sure that they realize that every time we step on the court there is a bull's-eye on our backs - especially in Queens."

The Judges survived probably their toughest challenge in Queens yesterday, despite only getting five points from Vic Morris, who has averaged 28 points a game. The Judges, who shot just 23-of-51 from the free throw line, got 15 points from Dwayne Johnson and 12 from Drew Gladstone.

The Ravens rallied from a three-point deficit in the first quarter to win. Gavin Grant had 26 points and five rebounds. Brian Laing had 24points and five rebounds and Chris Bethel scored 14 points.

Originally published on December 17, 2003

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