Wounded Champville stay on course for title tilt
BEIRUT: Champville’s title credentials might have come into question after an early loss to Riyadi, but there were several mitigating factors in their narrow defeat to the Beirut giants.
For starters, Fadi al-Khatib, who achieved triple-doubles in his opening two games, finished with just five points, six rebounds and four assists this time.
The local legend, who at 38 is in the autumn of his glittering career, has reinvented his game to compensate for his advancing years.
Gone are the days of playing downhill, where Khatib attacked the basket with reckless abandon and used his imposing frame to keep the defense under relentless pressure.
Khatib has eschewed his swashbuckling past in favor of a measured approach, where his passing skills and high basketball IQ are the pillars of Champville’s team-oriented approach.
Dwayne Jackson, acquired from Sagesse in the offseason, has assumed the role of primary scorer for Champville, with the towering Ater Majok the second option for Fouad Abu Chakra’s side.
With his inordinate height and reach Majok, another arrival from Sagesse, is a nightmare to guard for opposing players in this league.
The Sudanese-born center, who was selected 58th by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2011 NBA draft, is averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds and almost six blocks this season.
After consecutive routs of Mouttahed and Sagesse – the second a 28point blowout – many had Champville pegged as Riyadi’s nearest challengers this year.
If nothing else, the 72-69 loss in Manara reinforces that notion.
Despite shooting a staggeringly low 34 percent from the field, Champville managed to remain on the coattails of Riyadi, only a late Kevin Galloway dunk effectively ending the visitors’ stubborn resistance.
The loss would have been a valuable learning curve for this revamped Champville squad, who can improve to 3-1 when they host Byblos (1-2) Friday.
Meanwhile, Riyadi will aim to stay perfect despite a tricky game at Arab Club Championship runners-up Beirut Club Sunday. Riyadi, reinvigorated by the return of the timeless Ismail Ahmad, have played solid, if not spectacular, basketball en route to their 3-0 record.
Ahmad Farran’s side are doing a commendable job of sharing the scoring burden, with six players averaging double digits for the season.
They still, however, lack the requisite offensive juggernaut to eventually carry them over the hump.
The foreign trident of Mike Lyons, Jackie Carmichael and Galloway have put up moderate numbers of 18, 13 and 10 points per game respectively.
Elsewhere, defending champions Homenetmen can maintain their 100 percent record against winless Hoops Saturday while upstarts Atlas host Mouttahed. – J.J.
With his height and reach Majok, is a nightmare to guard.