This time last year, Khimki Moscow Region center Timofey Mozgov had never played first-division professional basketball. Just 12 months later, after coming out of nowhere in the middle of last season to help Khimki finish second both in the Eurocup and in the Russian League, Mozgov debuts in the Euroleague this season as one of the most-watched big men to arrive on the scene.
At 2.16 meters, Mozgov is a force around the basket, but also runs the floor like few players his size anywhere. Now 23 years old, Mozgov blossomed with the arrival last year of coach Sergio Scariolo, who found Mozgov buried on the Khimki bench, having played a total of 125 seconds in its first three Eurocup games. Scariolo plugged Mozgov into the rotation and was never able to remove him after the center racked up rebounds, blocked shots and efficient offensive output. Mozgov finished the season ranked No. 1 among all Eurocup players in rebounds and blocks per minute. By summer, Mozgov was the starter at center for the Russian national team in EuroBasket 2009!
A late bloomer, Mozgov is still improving his offensive arsenal, but there is no doubting the skills he has mastered. Blessed with a hulking body and good foot speed, he is a nightmare for opposing teams on the pick-and-roll where he can get the ball near the basket for a powerful slam. Those same physical traits and a nose for the ball make him strong on the offensive glass, while his instincts and timing help him swat shots with the best of them.
Mozgov sometimes pays a price for his aggressive play in the form of fouls, but that is something he is working to cut back on in order to stay on the court even longer this season. Though it may well be impossible to duplicate the progress he's made in so short a time, the rest of the Euroleague had better watch out as Mozgov arrives to stake his claim. If he can keep improving even at a slower pace, Mozgov will be right in the middle of a promising new Euroleague team.