Andrei Kirilenko and Nenad Krstic descended upon Moscow last October to steal the headlines and recede the hairlines, and CSKA made it all the way to the Euroleague finals. Afterwards, Krstic stayed put, but it’s Viktor Khryapa’s sensational year that’s rendered AK47’s presence in Minneapolis a non-factor in the Russian capital.
After leaving CSKA Moscow in 2004 as a 22-year-old to chase his NBA dream in Portland for two years and then another couple in Chicago, Viktor elected to bring his many-sided game back to Mother Russia in the middle of the 2007-08 NBA season. Having abandoned three and a half years of his EL prime to play sparsely in the US, Viktor couldn’t get his footing on a veteran-packed CSKA squad that was busy winning its second title in two years under Ettore Messina.
He averaged just 3.7 points in his first nine games back that year, and just 6.6 the following season, though he averaged better than a steal and a block per game. It turned out that was a foreshadowing of things to come.
In the 2009-10 season, CSKA let Khryapa off his leash and he picked up anything with some shine to it: All-Euroleague First Team, Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year, and he won the MVP Awards for both the Russian Cup and the VTB United League. He missed most of CSKA’s disappointing EL campaign in 2010-11 with injuries, but bounced back to pick up one of the few honors he didn’t win in 2011, MVP of the Russian League playoffs.Then he won a bronze medal in London this past summer. Then things got even better.
Khryapa’s averaging EL career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (7.1) and assists (3.8) while posting top five numbers in steals (1.8) and top ten in blocks (1.1). And forget the 50-40-90 club; Khryapa’s gunning for 60-50-90. Currently, he’s making 59 percent of his twos, 48 percent of his threes and 92 percent of his free throws.
And as if all this weren’t enough, just this past weekend he put up the first-ever triple double in the history of the VTB United League, going for 10 points, 13 boards and 10 assists (two blocks, too). All my chips are on the table for him to pick up his second MVP over in the VTB, and outside of Bobby Brown, nobody is more deserving of the Euroleague equivalent this season.
Especially if he leads CSKA to yet another Final Four, which seems more certain than it does probable. For now, he’ll have to settle for a sixth straight week atop the Sheridan Hoops Euroleague Power Rankings.
One step at a time. Onto the rankings…