EuroCup Star Turn: Travis Best

Feb 18, 2021 by Print
EuroCup Star Turn: Travis Best

A rising star in Russian basketball, UNICS Kazan took its game to the next level in 2005-06 when it competed for the first time in the EuroCup, which was then known as the ULEB Cup. To do so, it needed to strengthen the team in many ways and the player chosen to man the point guard spot was Travis Best.

What came before

Best was selected in the first round of the 1995 NBA Draft by Indiana and spent the first six and a half seasons of his decade in the NBA with that club. He started 46 games in his second seasons and helped the team reach the playoffs five times, including a run to the 2000 NBA Finals. Best had his best campaign with Indiana the next season when he averaged 11.9 points and 6.1 assists. He went on to suit up for Chicago, Miami, Dallas and New Jersey and scored more than 5,000 points in 708 regular season games.

EuroCup experience

At age 33, Best decided to test the European waters and signed for UNICS Kazan. He joined a promising squad coached by Stanislav Eremin and featuring Ksistof Lavrinovic, Saulius Stombergas, Sam Clancy and Sergei Chikalkin. UNICS dominated from Round 1, though it took Best a week to find his feet; he scored just 1 points in 15 minutes as UNICS mauled Queluz Sintra 97-60 on opening night. However, he was rolling by Round 21 when Best shined with 21 points as UNICS edged Spirou Charleroi 59-61 in Round 2 and matched that number in Round 4 in a 90-65 thrashing of FMP Belgrade. After he tallied 17 points, 5 assists and 5 steals in a 79-62 victory over Etosa Alicante in Round 8, UNICS was 8-0 and had clinched the top spot in Group C of the regular season. Between Rounds 2-8, Best had been worth 14.3 points, 2.3 steals and a PIR of 15.3. he and UNICS eased up in the final two regular season games, which included a Round 9 loss at FMP.

The eighthfinals brought with them a showdown with the legendary Dejan Bodiroga and Virtus Roma, which was 5-5 in the regular season, but had won its last three straight. The first leg of the two-game total-points series was in the Italian capital and Rome came from behind in the fourth quarter to win 91-86; Marko Tusek and David Hawkins scored 19 apice for the winners and Bodiroga tallied 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Best totaled 18 points, 4 assists and 4 steals to lead UNICS and Stombergas added 17 points. In Game 2 in Russia, Rome took charge early and held UNICS to just 9 second-quarter points to lead by 16 points on aggregate. UNICS made a late charge, but the outcome was never in doubt despite 23 points from Chikalkin and a Clancy double-double. Best bowed out with 7 points. Bodiroga and Hawkins led Rome with 14 points each. For the season, Best averaged 11.5 points on 45.0% three-point shooting. He made 91.7% of his free throws in addition to 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

What came after

Best decided to explore more of Europe over the following few seasons. After joining Virtus Bologna for 2006-07, he made his EuroLeague debut the following season with Prokom Trefl Sopot and exploded for 20 points on the road at Zalgiris Kaunas. His time with Prokom was shot; after Round 3 of the EuroLeague, Best left and joined Bologna for a second stint. He took a second crack at the EuroLeague with Air Avellino in 2008-09 in which he averaged 9.6 points and 2.9 assists in 10 games. Best finished his impressive career later that year with Napoli.