The Transformation. Scoring Champion, Latvian Traveller and a Champion of Oceania

VTB United League and Sports Express continue their joint project - The Transformation. This time we are focusing on certain personalities, that are capable of changing their new clubs’ traditions. Next up we have three bit transfer moves as 2013/14 League’s scoring champion Cory Higgins will try to lift his game to a new level, wearing CSKA Moscow outfit, Kaspars Berzins joins Ainars Bagatskis in Nizhniy Novgorod, while up and coming Australian Ryan Broekhoff will have an impact for Lokomotiv Kuban.

Cory Higgins, CSKA

Position: Shooting guard, small forward
Country: USA
Age: 26
Former Clubs: Colorado, NCAA (2007-2011), Erie BayHawks, D-League (2011), Charlotte Bobcats, NBA (2011/12), Erie BayHawks, D-League (2013), Triumph, Russia (2013/14), Royal Hali Gaziantep, Turkey (2014/15)
2014-15 Season Stats: 15.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals in 30 minutes per game in Turkey

Higgins is a well-known player if you follow the VTB United League. During the 2013/14 season he averaged 21.5 points per game for Triumph and became the league’s scoring champion. His opponents are well aware of his offensive touch but this doesn’t help them contain the player as he is truly unpredictable. Being quick and well-coordinated, the shooting guard always manages to find his way to the basket often scoring and-ones. However, his driving penetrations might not be his deadliest weapon as Higgins possesses an automatic mid-range jumper. You never know what to expect from the athletic two-guard in one-on-one situations or during a pick and roll.

CSKA’s head coach Dimitris Itoudis believes that the American will jell with his new team and will continue his progress. So far, the Greek specialist should be happy to see Cory’s performance in the pre-season matches as the latter top-scored for his team three times. If Higgins continues the same way, Sonny Weems' departure will remain unnoticed.

Kaspars Berzins, Nizhny Novgorod

Position: Power forward/center
Country: Latvia
Age: 30
Former Clubs: Skonto, Latvia (2003/04), Unicaja Malaga, Spain (2004/05), Riga, Latvia (2005/06), (2005/06), Barons Riga, Latvia (2006-2009), Fuenlabrada Madrid, Spain (2009/10), Caceres, Spain (2010), VEF Riga, Latvia (2010-2014), Monbus Obradoiro, Spain (2014), Krasnie Krilya, Russia (2014/15)
2014-15 Season Stats: 14.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 blocks in 29.5 minutes per game in the VTB United League.

Krasnie Krilya finished the 2014/15 season at the bottom of the standings, however one would never put the blame on Kaspars Berzins. The versatile big man helped his team in all possible ways and made it to the top 11 most effective players of the regular season. Kaspars scored points, dominated on the boards and was a key player in his team’s defence.

Kaspars Berzins is a jack of all trades. He is a great shooter, which causes all sorts of problems for the other teams’ defenses. This feature will make his tandem with Rasid Mahalbasic, who mainly hustles in the paint, a deadly twin-tower threat. Another key point for the Nizhny Novgorod’s fans is that Berzins knows Ainars Bagatskis from the Latvian national team. EuroBasket 2015 proved the importance of a versatile big man for Bagatskis’ offence. Nizhny is Berzins’ tenth career team and it looks like this is where he might settle in.

Ryan Broekhoff, Lokomotiv-Kuban

Position: small forward
Country: Australia
Age: 25
Former Clubs: Valparaiso, NCAA (2009-2013), Besiktas Istanbul, Turkey (2013-2015)
2014-15 Season Stats: 10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals in 30 minutes per game in EuroCup

The summer of 2015 was quite rapid for Ryan Broekhoff, who tried out for the Denver Nuggets in July in the NBA Summer League and later in August helped his national team beat New Zealand and qualify to the 2016 Summer Olympics, signing with Lokomotiv shortly after.

Broekhoff improves from season to season. While he started for little known Valparaiso University, the Oceania 2013 Champion quickly became one of the stars of the Horizon League. During his senior year he led his team to the NCAA Sweet 16. The most memorable moment of that year was the winning shot in the semifinal game of the conference. His three-point buzzer-beater allowed Valparaiso to seal a narrow win at that game.

The three-point shooting ability is Broekhoff’s deadliest weapon, who moved to Besiktas after the NCAA campaign, where he established himself as an elite shooter, making 50 percent of the three-pointers in the EuroCup, and also making it to the domestic All Star Game.

Broekhoff is not a typical shooter. While possessing a deadly three-pointer, he is also a strong and agile big man, who hustles hard on the boards, has no slack on the defensive end, possesses a high basketball IQ and creativity. The stage is set for him to demonstrate his talents on the courts of the VTB United League.