Our Finnish sportswriter Hippo brings us a couple of updates on Petteri Koponen to fill your post-Christmas Sunday. Click through to peruse...
Petteri Koponen update: So far, so good
Considering all the circumstances, Finnish combo guard Petteri Koponen's contract season with Italian Virtus Bologna has started well.
Virtus Bologna was flirting with a championship-caliber team in 2009/10, but the whole season went down the drain in April when Koponen was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot that caused him to be sidelined for five full months. With Koponen out, Virtus lost their last four regular season games and started their summer holiday early after losing to Bennet Cantu in the first round of playoffs.
Koponen underwent stress fracture surgery in late April and was operated again in late July to prevent future stress fractures. After a breakthrough season in international level, Koponen had to begin 2010/11 season after only a week of full contact practice with his team. Despite a long absence, Koponen was effective in limited minutes early in the season and even made a buzzer-beating trey in the season opener to defeat Bennet Cantu at home.
This season, Virtus Bologna has the youngest team in Italian Serie A. The youthful team started 4-1 with team captain Koponen showing the way, but after that, injuries to key players Kennedy Winston andViktor Sanikidze have slowed the team down. Currently Virtus stands 5-5 and shares the 6th spot in Serie A standings with three other teams.
With Christmas approaching, it is easy to say that Koponen has indeed made progress with his recovery, but he's still not back in his old form. Last season, Koponen drove to the hole often, seeked contact in his drives and under the glass and was able to beat his man on 1-on-1 situations time after time, but right now he seems a little cautious, thanks to the injury.
While Koponen still needs to pucker up in his rebounding, 2pt field goal shooting and stamina, his long range shooting, guard skills and defense have all slightly improved from last year: Koponen has shown a little catch-and-shoot skills, he has been playing effective minutes as off guard, he has cut down his turnovers and he still locks down opposing scorers every night exceling in both on-ball and off-ball defense.
A month ago, Koponen told in an interview for Finnish basketballviews.com website, that team doctors still permit him to practice only once a day. While Koponen is still closer to 80% than 90% shape, the young Finn seems determined to take his team a long way next spring when he is finally fully healthy. After that, Koponen's goal for 2011/12 is to take his talents to Euroleague or, possibly, the NBA. Last summer, a handful of NBA teams were after Koponen, but Trail Blazers were unwilling to let him go, and right now it seems that Koponen might fit into Blazers' plans with Steve Blake and Jerryd Bayless gone and Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez dealing with trade rumors.
Koponen breaks Serie A season scoring record
Finnish point guard and Portland Trail Blazers draft pick Petteri Koponen scored the highest point total in Italian professional league this season on Boxing Day eve.
Koponen totalled 36 points and lead his team Virtus Bologna through three overtimes to hard-fought 116-100 (43-51, 67-67, 81-81, 100-100) victory over Vanoli Cremona. The previous highest points total this season were courtesy of Montepaschi Siena's Lithuanian veteran Ksystof Lavrinovic and ex-San Antonio Spur James White, currently playing with Italian Dinamo Sassari - both Lavrinovic and White had 33 points earlier this season.
Koponen had only seven points with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter in the game. At the end of regulation, Virtus Bologna coach Lino Lardo switched Koponen from shooting guard to point guard and Koponen started calling pick and roll, resulting into 8-of-9 2pt field goal shooting and 14-of-14 free throw shooting. Koponen also made two out of nine three point attempts.
Koponen was also responsible of several of his team's clutch baskets. Koponen ended the regulation tying the game at 67-67 after a lay up resulting from a ball screen. Cremona took 72-79 lead in the beginning of 1st overtime, but Koponen answered with a 3pt shot, a layup and two free throws, tying the game at 81-81.
Cremona tried to pull away again taking a 91-96 lead with 1,5 minutes remaining in 2nd overtime. Koponen once again showed his cluth ability, sinking two free throws and tying the game at 100-100 with only a couple seconds remaining in the clock after a "full contact" layup.
In 3rd overtime, Virtus steamrolled Cremona 16-0, with Koponen scoring six of his team's points.
Virtus Bologna has won 6 out of 11 games in Serie A season so far. Koponen is averaging 12,7 points, 2,6 rebounds, 2,3 assists and 1,1 steals in 28,4 minutes a game with shooting %s of 46,8% (2pt fg), 38,5% (3pt fg) and 90,0% (ft's).
NOTE: Koponen suffered a stress fracture in his foot late April and had to sit until the beginning of October. Koponen started the 2010/11 season slowly but is making tremendous progress, as you can see from the stats below.
Koponen in OCT/NOV
2pt fg's 38,5%
3pt fg's 39,1%
Free throws 88,9%
Koponen in DEC
2pt fg's 57,1%
3pt fg's 36,0%
Free throws 90,9%