Here is weekly TIB High Five (18-20 December).
Mons started the season hot, racking up wins against Leuven, Limburg, Oostende (!) and Aalst. What strikes us most is that coach Bosnic has another player carrying the team in each of these games. Lambot, Barnes and Smith have all stepped up, with Skylar Spencer being a consistent presence throughout all four games. Against Aalst, Durham took the MVP-of-the-Game-mantle, stuffing the stat sheet with 19 points on seven of nine shooting, four rebounds, eight assists and three steals while only turning the ball over twice.
Niels Van Den Eynde
The departure of Speedy Smith to Limoges is a golden opportunity for the young Niels Van Den Eynde. It was the second time Antwerp and Brussels played each other this season. In the first game, the 19-year-old Van Den Eynde played a mere five minutes; on Saturday, he collected 24. Van Den Eynde has some big shoes to fill. Smith underscored Van Den Eynde’s challenge by scoring the game-winning basket for his new team, Limoges. While Smith was making his debut for Limoges, Van Den Eynde was dropped in the starting line-up for the first time this season. He led the Giants to a comfortable victory against Brussels thanks to an outstanding second half (46-21). Van Den Eynde scored 15 of those 46 points.
Loubry joined Kangoeroes Mechelen during the offseason after having spent seven years in the capital of Europe. It seems to be a perfect match so far. His best season in Brussels was 2016-2017 when they eliminated the Antwerp Giants in the semis, and the team of coach Crèvecoeur advanced to the championship final against Oostende. Loubry was huge against Antwerp back then, playing the best basketball of his career. His heyday is behind him, but the 35-year-old Loubry can still put up a show: step-back threes, steals, feeding Kok and Thompson in the post… Loubry looked rejuvenated in the first half of his first game under coach Vervaeck. After that first half, Mechelen was up 44-28 and handily secured the W in the second half. Vervaeck has the luxury of leaving both Thompson and Deroover on the bench at tip-off; Mechelen has a good team this season.
Fifteen years ago, the five best players of each round were almost always five foreign players. You simply could not find Belgian impact players. Things have changed for the better. The Belgians are not always leading the gang – they sometimes do – but many teams now come up with the right mix. Antwerp is one example of this trend. With his vision and organizing talent, Bleijenbergh has become their Belgian impact player. He was the man of the game in the blow-out win against Phoenix Brussels.
Welsh came into the league with a lot of promise, but up to now, he had difficulties adapting to overseas basketball. In the loss against Mons, he was a big disappointment on the floor, scoring a meek two points in 29 minutes of play. Is the time Welsh needed to adjust to European basketball over now? It just might be. Welsh played very well against Spirou Charleroi on Friday night, although the Spirou defence was not making it hard. Yet, he did make all seven of his 2-point attempts and went two for four from three-point land. He grabbed just two rebounds, so there is still room for improvement, but this game must give him confidence
Maarten Weynants and Joachim Verplancke