#7 Artsiom Parakhouski, 6’11, Senior, Center, Radford
Born in Belarus and having only a handful of seasons of organized basketball and English lessons under his belt, Artsiom Parakhouski made a splash in his first season in the NCAA. After leading Radford to a Big South title and the NCAA tournament in 2009, Artsiom Parakhouski returns to the small Virginia-based University for his senior season with the attention of NBA scouts.
Standing almost 7-feet tall and possessing a solid frame, the reigning Big South Player of the Year has an exceptional physical profile for a center, let alone one playing in a small NCAA conference. On top of his sheer size, Parakhouski possesses decent end to end mobility and some leaping ability, reminiscent of a less explosive Kyrylo Fesenko, as he lacks a degree of lateral speed and the quick leaping ability that would help him translate his size to the next level. Often the tallest player on the floor by a wide margin in conference play, Parakhouski’s averages of 16.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks are all representative of his ability to impose his size on lesser competition.
While it is easy to write off some true centers posting good numbers in small conferences, Parakhouski is an interesting case due to his lack of playing experience, physical maturity, and his production against top competition. After two seasons at Junior College juggernaut Southern Idaho College where he proved to be a productive contributor, but not a first option, Parakhouski carried the load for Radford on most nights last season. Though he didn’t have the best game of his career against Tyler Hansbrough and UNC in the first round of the NCAA tournament, scoring 10 points on 3-15 shooting with 10 rebounds, he held his own against both Wake Forest and Virginia, going for a double-double in both contests.
Parakhouski’s ability to show well against top competition will have a considerable impact on where he’s slated moving into next year’s draft season. In the Big South, he proves incredibly difficult to stop, as the big target he provides underneath, his solid hands, and his ability to maneuver around the paint for offensive rebounds and dump passes earn him a lot of easy shots right at the basket. Showing good finishing ability, keeping the ball high and dunking it whenever possible, Parakhouski has his way with interior defenders in the Big South, though he is prone to have his shot blocked against players with comparable physical gifts.
In addition to finishing at a high rate, Parakhouski does some damage in post up situations at as well. Preferring to operate over his right shoulder, Parakhouski displays a nice turnaround jumper turning in either direction, and flashes a hook shot on occasion. Having little trouble turning and elevating over his defender, Parakhouski’s short range touch appears solid, and he’s even able to step out and knock down an occasional midrange jumper. Only average from the foul line, shooting only 65.5%, Parakhouski’s improvements from the high post will only augment the things that he already does well on the college level.
Much like the instincts he displays in his basic back to the basket game, Parakhouski shows some good things on the defensive end. Disciplined and not overly foul prone, Parakhouski lacks the quickness to effectively defend the perimeter and the awareness to be a very good weakside defender. However, he plays solid defense when defending his man one-on-one in the post. One of the NCAA's top returning rebounders, as Parakhouski gains experience, his ability to be more physical defensively and react more quickly on the weakside will be essential to his defensive success regardless of where he’s playing next season.
With only six years of organized basketball under his belt, Parakhouski has made a seamless transition to the NCAA. In position to repeat as Big South Player of the Year, if Parakhouski can lead his team to the NCAA tournament, he’ll have every opportunity to boost his stock and eventually get drafted. Considering his current level of competition, Parakhouski could be a candidate for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament next spring, and is likely to see a lot of interest when teams begin scheduling private workouts. If Parakhouski can add some polish to his game, pack on some muscle, and continue on the learning curve that he appears to be on, he seems like a strong candidate to land in the second round given the premium put on size.
Belarusian prospect Vitali Liutych ('92) was awarded with the best Defense Player trophy of the Gomelsky Cup, the U-18 tournament held in Moscow (Russia) some days ago. Belarus finished second after beating Estonia (70-60) and Ukraine (62-56), and losing against Russia (53-60).
Russian center Andrey Loginov ('93) and estonian guard Rannar Raap ('92) also were awarded due to their performances in Moscow.
SMU men announce recruiting class
Aliaksei Patsevich (6-4, 180) is a freshman guard for coach Jim Sigona at Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas. He will have three years at SMU. The native of Minsk, Belarus, played in the North European Youth Basketball League (NEYBL) where he made the 2004 and 2005 all-star teams. His teams also won the Belarus youth championship in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
"Aliaksei is a basketball player first and foremost. He can really pass, handle and shoot the basketball. Thus far, he has performed well at Collin County and we expect him to be a major contributor in our backcourt for years to come.
Georgetown Men's Basketball
Personal: Born on June 16, 1988 in Minsk, Belarus ... The son of Valera and Lorisa Mescheriakov ... Has an older brother, Egor, who played basketball at George Washington ... Name is spelled on his jersey as "Mescheriakou," which is the Bela-Russian form; Mescheriakov is the Russian form.
High School: An honorable mention All-Met selection as a senior in 2006-07 ... Averaged 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.0 blocks per game for the Vikings, while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 78 percent from the free throw line ... Named Most Valuable Player at the Skippy Thompson Tournament, averaging 17 points, five rebounds and three assists per game ... Came to the United States from his native Belarus prior to the 2006-07 academic year.
The sophomore from Belarus was relegated to the bench for eight of this season's first 16 games. He didn't play more than 15 minutes in a single outing until Jan. 28.
But since being elevated to the starting lineup on Feb. 14, Mescheriakov has carved out a distinct niche: committing more fouls per minute played than any Hoya.
And Coach John Thompson III couldn't be more grateful.
"He plays extremely hard, and when you play hard, aggressive defense, you pick up fouls," Thompson said. "I wish a few more people got into foul trouble more often, to tell you the truth. That's not a negative."
For Thompson and the Hoyas, it has been a season of maddening inconsistency, in which a young squad has flailed about in search of an offensive identity, a defensive presence and a lineup capable of delivering both.
In Thompson's quest for a solution, no move was more shocking than his decision to replace the team's only senior in the starting lineup, Jessie Sapp, with Mescheriakov.
A long-limbed 6 feet 8, Mescheriakov may not grow any taller. But at 214 pounds, he has plenty of opportunity to bulk up his frame, which is hardly imposing in the brawny Big East. Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair, the leading candidate for the league's player of the year honors, is one inch shorter but 51 pounds heavier.
Nonetheless, Mescheriakov has earned his starting spot on grit -- diving for loose balls during practice and games, flinging himself into scrums over rebounds and contesting bigger opponents' shots. He's also a dangerous three-point shooter, although his range and accuracy haven't yet translated from practice to games.
Thompson seems willing to wait, confident that the effort Mescheriakov exerts will pay off on both ends of the court.
"That will come with his comfort level," Thompson said. "But he sees the open man. And he can make passes, too."
Meantime, Sapp has proven more effective in relief.
"Nikita brings us a lot of energy," noted sophomore guard Chris Wright. "He's very aggressive on both ends of the floor. He uses up the majority of his fouls every game. And Sapp coming off the bench has been great for us. He scores and does a lot of the intangibles that we need him to do. He doesn't have to worry about anything. He just goes out there and plays, and the game comes to him. When he plays off his instinct, that's when he's at his best."
When Foul Trouble Isn't a Problem
Georgetown at St. John's
Thompson plans to stick with Mescheriakov in the starting lineup for tonight's game against St. John's at Madison Square Garden and presumably until season's end.
With just two regular season games remaining, Georgetown (15-12, 6-10) is desperately trying to make its case for an NCAA tournament bid.
After a 10-1 start, it's stunning that the season has come to this.
"Dire" is how Jerry Palm, publisher of CollegeRPI.com, characterized it.
According to Palm's math, Georgetown must beat St. John's (14-15, 5-11) and DePaul (8-21, 0-16) and enter the Big East tournament with a 17-12 record to warrant consideration, and then win a few rounds to clinch it.
Sapp is prepared to make the Hoyas' case now.
"We've proven we can play with the best teams in the country," said Sapp, pointing to victories over Connecticut, Memphis and Villanova. "If that's what the NCAA people are looking for, I think we're one of those teams. We ran into a situation where we were trying to figure things out in the middle of the season, and it was tough. Everybody's excuse is, 'We're young! We're young!' But I think we've grown up."
Last weekend's upset of Villanova was a step in that progression.
While Georgetown's offense sputtered in stretches (including the final six minutes, in which the Hoyas made only one field goal), the defense kept Villanova's league-best offense in check throughout.
"We were playing good team basketball, staying together, staying focused until the end of the game," said Mescheriakov, who scored a career-high 11 points.
Tonight brings a new challenge for the 20-year-old Mescheriakov: playing his first game in Madison Square Garden, a building he has heard about since his basketball-obsessed childhood in Minsk, Belarus, long before he ever heard of Georgetown.
"Time goes by, and you're [now] playing in this building where all these famous people have played," Mescheriakov said. "It kind of pumps me up. But I'll try not to think about it. I'll try to focus on the game."