Familiar Faces. 9 United League Comebacks

The summer of 2015 has been an interesting stretch for the VTB United League clubs, many of which signed some familiar faces during the off-season. Former Triumph’s leader Cory Higgins is hoping to replace CSKA’s Sonny Weems, Alexei Shved returns to Khimki after his NBA venture, while Germany’s scoring champion D.J. Kennedy will wear the Enisey’s outfit. Here’s more about these and some other league come-backs:

Zabian Dowdell, Zenit

Position: Guard
Former clubs in the League: Enisey (2012/13), Lietuvos Rytas (2013/14)
Stats in the league: 35 games, 10.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals
Season 2014-15: Proximus Spirou Charleroi, Belgium

Zenit will be Dowdell’s third VTB United League team and while the guard never managed to fully demonstrate his potential for the two previous squads (for Enisey due to injuries and for Lietuvos Rytas due to the lack of playing time), the pre-season games have shown that he will be the go-to guy on the team’s offence. After all Dowdell was signed as the main point-guard.

Artem Zabelin, Avtodor

Position: Center
Former clubs in the League: CSKA (2009-2011), Lokomotiv-Kuban (2011/12), Krasnie Krilya (2013/14)
Stats in the league: 30 games, 5.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.7 blocks.
Season 2014-15: did not play

Unlike the rest of the players from this list, Zabelin’s break is not related to playing in a different league. Multiple injuries, sustained by the player during the course of his career forced him to completely miss 2014/15. Despite that, Avtodor’s president Vladimir Rodionov is willing to give Zabelin, who’d had a personal trainer and lost weigh in preparation for the upcoming season, yet another chance. Artem hasn’t played much during the pre-season action, but looked solid during the minutes he did receive.

David Kennedy, Enisey


Position: Forward
Former clubs in the League: Krasny Oktyabr (2014)
Stats in the league: 4 games, 19.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks.
Season 2014-15: Ludwigsburg, Germany

Kennedy’s VTB United League debut was quite exciting but at the same time short-lasting. He scored 19.3 points per game over the course of his first four matches for Krasniy Oktyabr, after which the parties parted ways. D.J. did manage to quickly sign with German side Ludwigsburg, where he became DBL’s scoring champion - a title that will allow Krasnoyarsk’s newcomer to have unlimited offensive options in an attempt to repeat the feat.

Marco Killingsworth, Kalev

Position: Center
Former clubs in the League: BC Donetsk (2013/14)
Stats in the league: 15 games, 17.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks.
Season 2014-15: Ural Ekaterinburg Russia; Monaco, France

Killingsworth wore the BC Donetsk’s outfit during the 2013/14 season, where he was one of the team’s key offensive figures. His ability to run the floor, play one-one-one or pick-and-roll situations will cause a lot of trouble to Kalev’s opponents.

Denys Lukashov, Avtodor

Position: Guard
Former clubs in the League: Budivelnyk (2011/12), BC Donetsk (2012/13), Azovmash (2013/14)
Stats in the league: 26 games, 3.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.2 blocks.
Season 2014-15: Budivelnyk, Ukraine

Denys Lukashov took part in the VTB United League action playing for the thee League’s representatives from Ukraine: Budivelnik, Azovmash and Donetsk. He was never a leader on any of those and can be remembered for the garbage time he was occasionally receiving. This time a more experienced Lukashov, who will have an import status on Avtodor, will be a backup for Malcolm Armstead / Jeremy Chappel duo, but will try to earn his spot on the starting five throughout the course of the long season.

Arturas Milaknis, UNICS

Position: Forward
Former clubs in the League: Zalgiris (2009-2012)
Stats in the league: 17 games, 6.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.1 blocks.
Season 2014-15: Zalgiris, Lithuania

Milakins spent most of his pro career playing for Zalgiris as a role player and it was only in 2014/15 that his three-point shooting ability put some spotlight on the player, as he turned into one of Europe’s prime shooters. And while UNICS will be Arturas’ first club outside of Lithuania, VTB United League is nothing new for the veteran.

Tony Taylor, Enisey

Position: Guard
Former clubs in the League: PGE Turow (2013/14)
Stats in the league: 18 games, 11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.9 steals.
Season 2014-15: PGE Turow, Poland

Tony Taylor’s VTB United League debut for Turow was also his first ever overseas season and almost immediately the guard demonstrated his lightning-fast handles and the ability to play in the clutch. Last season the youngster did well during the Euroleague and EuroCup competitions and now he returns to the league with even more experience and a new level of confidence.

Cory Higgins, CSKA

Position: Guard
Former clubs in the League: Triumph (2013/14)
Stats in the league: 22 games, 20.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals
Season 2014-15: Royal Hali Gaziantep, Turkey

Cory Higgins was one of the brightest VTB United League stars in 2013/14, playing for Triumph. He became the tournament’s scoring champion and led his team to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Higgins moved on to Turkey for one year, but decided to make a comeback to the United League’s most successful club - CSKA Moscow, replacing one of their most established players - Sonny Weems. This will put some extra pressure on the guard and his comparisons to the predecessor will be inevitable.

Alexey Shved, Khimki

Position: Guard
Former clubs in the League: CSKA (2009-2012)
Stats in the league: 30 матчей, 8.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks.
Season 2014-15: Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks (all - NBA)

Alexey Shved showed steady progress from year to year over the three seasons in the VTB United League, when he made it all the way from being in deep reserve to a starting five spot on CSKA Moscow. He will continue this tradition in the upcoming season, however this time for Khimki. During his venture in the NBA Alexey turned into one of Europe’s finest players. He will be a consistent scorer for the new club, but at the same time having such talented big men as Paul Davis, James Augustine, Marco Teodorivic and Sergei Monia around him will help his playmaking skills flourish.