One of Eurocup's best and most productive rebounders over the past decade, lefty power forward James Augustine of Khimki Moscow Region, steps up to one of the biggest challenges of his career to face his former team in the Eurocup Finals.
Augustine grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and played four years at the University of Illinois before starting his pro career in 2006 with two years for Orlando in the NBA and Anaheim of the NBA Development League. He moved to Europe in 2008, joining none other than Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas — Khimki's opponent in the two-game finals on Friday, April 24 and Wednesday, April 29. Augustine spent two seasons in the Canary Islands, and in 2009-10 led the Eurocup with 7.4 rebounds per game. He also scored 9.1 points on average and was named an All-Eurocup selection while helping Gran Canaria reach the quarterfinals. Augustine moved to Valencia in 2011, making his Turkish Airlines Euroleague debut, but an injury stopped him from playing as much as anticipated. The next summer Augustine signed with Murcia, also in Spain, where he elevated his game some more, as his 8.3 rebounding average led the Spanish League. Augustine joined Khimki in 2012 and is now in his third season there in the Russian capital. Coming off the bench last season, Augustine was a big part in team's 31-victory streak in all competitions. He averaged 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 blocks in 16 Eurocup games, and had 12.7 points, 6.8 boards, 1.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per contest in the VTB United League, where he was named the Sixth Man of the Year.
This season, again off the bench, Augustine is Khimki's leading rebounder with 5.9 per game, and converts two-point shots with 67.4% accuracy. He did not miss a single two-point attempt until regular season Round 5, making his first 11 shots of the season. And Augustine has been at his best when it matters most, in both eighthfinals and semifinals. He pulled a season-high 12 boards in a Last 32 Round 3 win over PAOK Thessaloniki, and continued his good form by averaging 7 rebounds in eighthfinals victories against Zenit St. Petersburg. Next, against Banvit Bandirma, Augustine improved 9.5 boards per game, including 10 on the offensive glass, which ranks among the five best rebounding marks for a Eurocup Semifinals series. He had a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards in the first game, then delivered in the return leg with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and a steal. It not only helped Khimki advance on a three-point aggregate margin, but Augustine's timely performance earned him Game 2 co-MVP honors. Going into the finals, Augustine has the third-best rebounding rate, 10.75 per 40 minutes, and the fifth-best two-point accuracy, 62.94%, for players with more than 50 Eurocup games in their careers. Now, facing his former team, Augustine's hustle and efficiency are aimed squarely at achieving Eurocup glory and sending him and Khimki back to the Euroleague.