Oakland's winningest player in program history has signed on to play professionally in Slovakia. He'll be playing for MBK Rieker Komarno out of Komarno, Slovakia in the Extraliga. Now, if you are like me, you are not an expert on Slovakian basketball. Fortunately, Mr. Tomáš Kottra is one such expert. Kottra provides Slovakian coverage for EuroBasket.com, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Komarno, Slovakia, and Jones' role on the team.
How competitive is the league that Komarno plays in? Are there any unique facts about the league that we should know?In past, there were one-two top teams and then the rest, but lately the league became more evened. The season starts on September 25th and for now it looks like more than half of teams have ambitions to reach medals. The league is played two times per week (on Wednesday and Saturday). There are allowed only 3 non-EU players on roster. Just before some time FIBA accepted new rules for European competitions, effective on October 2012, but Slovak Basketball Association is already using them. Now the rules are more similar to NBA ones. The three-point line was moved to 22 feet, [and] they also adopted "Restricted Area" for no charging foul calls. And some other little ones with lines and timing.
How did Komarno do during last season? And is it a team that often signs American players?Komarno started last season very badly. Roster was not completely filled up, the team was lacking a good point guard. Then, after Christmas break, three new players came to club - TJ Bannister (PG, USA), Jaraun Burrows (PF, BAH) and V. Klar (SG/SF, SVK). The team went up with their performance, made it to playoffs and wanted to go higher, but lost [to] MBK Handlova. Their play was always attractive to watch.This will be third season with American player on this position for Komarno. The team also signed CJ Jackson this year. He is fourth American in history who signed his contract in Komarno. In general, signing Americans in Slovak league is new trend. In past, foreign players [who] signed here were mostly from former Yugoslavia or neighboring countries. But now, every team tries to sign at least one American. Their performance is almost always above team's average.What can a point guard like Jones who is a great create/distributor and ball-handler add to Komarno next season?A quality PG is very important everywhere. We saw it last year. The team was really under average before TJ Bannister came to play here. He made everybody a better player and we expect the same this year and maybe a bit more. After seeing Johnathon's outstanding statistics, everybody is looking forward to first home matches. Fans here love dunking and alley-oops, which are not very common, so we hope to see some of these again. Johnathon will surely have great partners for this in J. 'Kino' Burrows and CJ. I think he will be great in avoiding turnovers, being dangerous inside scorer, and his passes are gonna be deadly.
Clearly, there seems to be a lot of excitement on the part of the Slovakian writers for the league and Komarno this season. I also reached out to Sham of ShamSports.com to see where Slovakian basketball fits in the bigger picture of European leagues, since I found there was not much coverage of the leagues on his website which otherwise never lacks depth. Sham reported that the Slovakian leagues are "basically irrelevant" in Europe. Despite this not so stellar news, it appears that the owners in this country are attempting to bring in better talent to field more competitive teams.
No matter the league, Johnathon Jones is still getting a paycheck to do what he presumably loves doing. He'll likely be playing in front of many eager fans looking for a mixture of great entertainment and competitive basketball. Perhaps most importantly, he'll be spending time in a new country that is bound to provide the 22-year-old with some neat life experiences. Also, there is always the chance he shines in the league and earns a spot in a higher league next year. As an Oakland fan, I'm just happy to see he is getting a shot to play basketball again. The Grizzlies Gameplan will be keeping in touch with Mr. Kottra throughout the season for updates on Jones play in Slovakia.
- Special thanks to Germane who broke the news of Jones' signing on the Golden Grizzlies hoops forum.