Where Are They Now, 2010; Part 59
April 21st, 2010

Sofoklis Schortsanitis

Big Sofo has supposedly lost almost 150 pounds. This is good. The number is presumably exaggerated a bit, but whatever the amount he’s lost really is, it’s still good that he’s lost it.  He needed to.

Last year, he was simply too fat play; allegedly nearer to 500lbs than 400, and seemingly trying his best to undermine the team that continues to persist with him perhaps long after they shouldn’t, Sofo appeared in only 95 minutes all season, and fouled once in every four of them. How a man can get as big as he did is hard to fathom, and how a professional athlete (at least ostensibly) can get that big is simply mind-blowing. But it happened. Sofo has always had a huge frame, yet with all that fat on him, he was heeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEYYOOOOOOOOGE. You could feel your head being drawn closer to the screen, such was his gravitational pull. He was the biggest basketball player I have ever seen. And it was reflected in his play.

This year, however, Sofoklis has turned up to play. Perhaps motivated by the impending expiration of his contract, Sofoklis has lost much weight and is an unstoppable force in the Greek league. He plays only 13.3 minutes in Greek league play, partly because Olympiacos keep winning in blowouts, partly because his stamina still isn’t great, partly because he offers so little defensively other than the foul, and partly of Olympiacos’s surfeit of big men. (When you have all of Sofo, Ioannis Bourousis, Nikola Vujcic, Linas Kleiza, Andreas Glyniadakis and Loukas Mavrokefalidis, you might as well use them). Yet in that short space of time, Sofo averages a whopping 9.4 points per game, shooting 69% from the field. He is unstoppably strong in the paint; there’s no else that big or that physical, and Sofo has the skill to go with that. His free throw shooting is also much improved; his tally is only 58.4% on the season, but he’s gone 35 for his last 47 after starting 17-42. (He also went 5-17 from the line in a EuroLeague game.) It’s all a part of his rehab.

That said, he’s still fat. He moves quite well for a fat guy, but it’s still only relative; Schortsanitis remains 6’9 and bereft of athleticism. His only defence is to foul, and he does that a lot still, roughly once in every five and a half minutes in Greek league play. This will come even more to play in the NBA, if ever he gets there, because everyone is faster than him there. A lot faster.

Nonetheless, the Rockets are said to be interested in his draft rights.


Renaldas Seibutis

Mavericks draft pick Ronny Seibutis is playing for Spanish team Bizkaia Bilbao, who recently won the third place playoff in the EuroCup. Or rather, he’s not playing for Bilbao.

We’ve covered most of the rest of Bilbao’s roster in this list; Marko Banic, Axel Hervelle, Jerome Moiso, Damir Markota and Alex Mumbru, with Chris Warren still to come – but those are all big men. Bilbao are stacked up front, less so at guard. They have Latvian guard Janis Blums – who is basically the Baltic Eddie House with less swag – and Spanish veteran Javi Rodriguez – who is basically the Mediterranean Dogus Balbay with less swag – but not a whole lot after that. Warren plays quite a lot at guard, while 36-year-old Spanish guard Fran “Paco” Vazquez comes into and chucks a few threes every now and then (51 3PT FGA to 7 2PT FGA and 2 FTA on the season), and third string point guard Javier Salgado plays most nights (as decreed by unofficial European basketball rules). But that’s about it; even though there aren’t many shooting guard options, Seibutis still averages only 14 minutes per game. And a remarkably inconsistent 14 mpg it is at that, with a roughly equal number of starts as he does DNP-CD’s, and almost as many twenty-plus minute outings (11) as single-minute outings (14). It’s been a strange year.

Through it all, Seibutis has averaged 6.2 points per game in the EuroCup, and 5.0 points per game in the ACB. He has shot a combined 36% from three-point range.


Mladen Sekularac

Another former Mavericks draft pick – although his rights are now owned by the Warriors – Sekularac was projected to be a sweet-shooting 6’8 swingman, much like Bojan Bogdanovic projects to be (or is) in the upcoming draft. But M-Sek never panned out due to injuries. Injuries kept him out for all but one game of last season as well – the first game of the year – yet finally, after 18 months on the shelf, Sekularac returned to action when he signed with Bosnian team Igokea Aleksandrovac in March. (Not to be confused with the bigger Serbian team, Partizan Igokea.) Igokea Aleksandrovac are not an Adriatic League team, playing only in the Bosnian league, yet March saw them pull off a triple whammy of big signings when they landed Sekularac, LaVell Blanchard and Jamar Butler. Not sure how they did this, but they did this.

Statistics are not available for Rack, other than to say he totalled 8 points in 24 minutes in their last game.


Mouhamed Sene

After being waived by New York over the summer, despite their need for a centre, Sene moved to France. The French league is somewhat infamous, if you will, for its lack of defensive play – therefore, a naturally defensive player such as Sene stood a good chance of making his presence felt there. And that’s exactly what he’s done; in 32 minutes of 26 games, Sene has averaged 12.9 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, with the rebounds and blocks both leading the league. The only man within three rebounds per game of Sene is Vichy’s Dounia Issa (11.6 rpg), and the only man within 1.0 blocks per game of Sene’s is again Issa (2.3 bpg; incidentally, Issa is a 28-year-old 6’6 forward averaging less than 10 ppg). He still can’t make a shot from outside of the paint, and still shoots higher from the field than from the foul line, so he’s the same old Sene. But those are big numbers by any metric, and he’s also averaging only 2.4 fouls per game.

Speaking of the Knicks need for a centre, the following headline is from February:

“Walsh Traded Picks After Receiving Inside Information On Free-Agency?

And this headline is from yesterday:

“Knicks May Turn To Brad Miller At Centre.”

Bad times.

A look at potential free agent centres forlornly reveals an ever-decreasing list. The sign-and-trade with Portland involving David Lee and Joel Przybilla looks ever more desirable for the Knicks now. They could run some offence/defence with Prizz and Eddy Curry. Don’t mock it until you can be sure it won’t happen.


Josip Sesar

Former Celtics draft pick Sesar spent the best part of 13 consecutive seasons in Croatia, save for a few months. His final season was last season, unusually spent in Bosnia, when he played for Zrinjski. He has not played this year.

His website is a bit of a throwback. I remember when all websites were like that. They were better times, more innocent times.


Ansu Sesay

Sesay played for ALBA Berlin last season, when they were a EuroLeague team, but he was not retained for this year (replaced by Derrick Byars). He stayed on shelf until February – unsuccessful tryouts in China notwithstanding – and then was picked up by French team Le Havre. In 10 French league games, Sesay has averaged 8.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

Ansu Sesay was the MVP of the NBDL (as was) back in the 2001-02 season, when he averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Greenville Groove (now defunct), numbers which earned him a call-up to the Seattle Supersonics later that year. The NBDL’s leading scorer that year was Isaac Fontaine with 17.4ppg; the leading rebounder was the immortal Thomas Hamilton with 9.4 per game. 35 players scored more than Sesay in the D-League this season (when minimum games qualifying requirements are ignored), and 16 players grabbed more rebounds than that. The D-League has come a long way.


Ha Seung-Jin

Cult hero Ha is in his native South Korea, where he just finished up another KBL season. Playing his second season for KGG Egis, he has averaged 13.4 points and 9.1 rebounds in 29 minutes per game, shooting 65% from the field and 53% from the line. Ha missed the last two months of the regular season, but returned Willis Reed-style to play the last three games of the KBL Finals. It wasn’t enough, though, to prevent KGG losing the series 3-2. They lost the last game of the finals by a blowout 38 points. Bit of a lame note to go out on.

How about a video of Ha Seung-Jin, Lamond Murray and Sam Perkins extolling the virtues of yoga? And of Ha?

May I particularly recommend the last 90 seconds.


Walter Sharpe

The Pistons traded Sharpe to the Denver Nuggets to start the past offseason, along with Arron Afflalo, in order to open up cap space to unnecessarily overpay Ben Gordon. (I love Ben Gordon, but $11.6 million a year isn’t getting it done. Especially off the bench. And with no other bidders.) Denver then forwarded Sharpe on to the Milwaukee Bucks, along with Sonny Weems, in exchange for some big man depth in Malik Allen. (I love Malik Allen, too, but he only does one thing regularly at the NBA level. And that one thing is to take the most inefficient shot in the sport. A lot.) The team trading away Sharpe lost both of those trades; perhaps keen to avoid falling into the same trap, the Bucks waived Sharpe in preseason in spite of his guaranteed money. Sharpe has not played anywhere this year. Despite signing a guaranteed two-year minimum salary contract, one which the Bucks paid all year, his NBA career has totalled only 20 minutes.


Doron Sheffer

Former Clippers draft pick Doron Sheffer never left Israel during his professional career. Despite three years at UConn, Sheff returned to Israel after being drafted, and spent the next twelve years playing for teams called either Maccabi or Hapoel. His career finished in 2008 when he retired for the fourth time; Sheffer first retired in 2000 when he was diagnosed with cancer, returned a couple of years later, played three more years, retired in 2005 preseason, returned a couple of months later to play the rest of the 2005-06 season, retired at the end of the season, missed a year, unretired to play the 2007-08 season, then retired for good at the end of it. Or so it seems. Now 37, Sheffer coaches youth basketball in his home country.


Ricky Shields

Rutgers graduate Shields started the year with Kavala/Panorama in Greece, where he averaged 10.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. He left the struggling team in January, and in February signed with Slovenian team Helios to replace Domen Lorbek. Shields has averaged 12.1 points in Slovenian league play, rising up to 20.3 points per game in the Adriatic League, a mark which would be leading the competition had he played enough games to qualify. The Adriatic League is arguably the third-strongest league in the world (behind the NBA and the ACB; not including the EuroLeague), and even though his numbers come in only three games for the last-placed Helios team (6-20), averaging 20 ppg in the Adriatic League is no mean feat, whatever the context.



Joe Shipp

Former Cal guard Shipp closed out the 2008-09 season with Pitagoras/Minas Tenis Clube in Brazil, a team that seems to be named after a legendary philosopher and a tennis club. He left the team in October (replaced by JaJuan Smith), and moved to Mexico to provide some depth down the stretch of the LNBP season for Halcones Xalapa. Shipp averaged 4.7 points and 2.2 rebounds in six games to help Xalapa win the title, then moved to Venezuela to play for Trotamundos. However, he was released after only totalling 23 points in three games.

Venezuela is a basketball destination much like Puerto Rico in that it plays during the summer and attracts some players that you may have heard of. This year, it’s got more than usual. A full breakdown will come later in the week. Anything to avoid more studying.

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