A high-profile encounter between Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul will also feature a collision of star veteran centers, the most-recent EuroLeague champion, Othello Hunter, and the most-recent EuroLeague MVP, Jan Vesely.
Hunter, who is in his second season with Maccabi, made his debut in 2013 with Montepaschi Siena and has since gone on to play with Olympiacos Piraeus, Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow. Hunter played in four Final Fours and two championship games, helping CSKA win the title in 2019. Meanwhile, Vesely returned to the EuroLeague and joined Fenerbahce ahead of the 2014-15 season, after previously having played in the competition three seasons before his 21st birthday with Partizan NIS Belgrade, between 2008 and 2011. He has helped Fenerbahce reach five consecutive Final Fours, winning a title in 2017 before he was chosen as the league MVP in 2019.
Over the six seasons before this one, both have been among the most productive big men in the EuroLeague. That's especially been the case on the glass. Only two players have grabbed more rebounds over that span than Hunter's total of 926 for an average of 5.2. Next behind him on that chart is Vesely, with 870 rebounds for an average of 5.1. Hunter is the top offensive rebounder in the EuroLeague over the past six seasons with 393 while Vesely ranks third place in that category with 343.
Rebounding is not the only aspect in which these two centers have shined. No player has scored more two-point shots over the past six seasons than Vesely's 737. Hunter is fifth on that list with 636. In addition, Hunter and Vesely are two of only three players since the 2014-15 season with better than 60% two-point shooting on more than 1,000 two-point shot attempts. Vesely holds a slight edge, with 61.7%, compared to Hunter's 60.8%.
Vesely has also been better than Hunter in scoring, ranking fifth in total scoring over those six years with 1,885 points (11.2 ppg.), compared to Hunter's 1,511 (8.4 ppg.). Vesely also has a significant advantage in shot-blocking, having registered twice as many blocks over the last six seasons. Similarly, Vesely's 264 assists are nearly double Hunter's 136.
Longevity has been a part of the success of both players. Only two players, Kyle Hines and Jaycee Carroll, have appeared in more games over the last six seasons than Hunter (179), and Vesely sits in the eighth place (170). Longevity has meant that they've seen their share of head-to-head battles, too.
This will be the 12th time that Vesely and Hunter, having played at least two games against each other in five of the past six seasons, square off. Vesely has had better production in those games between them. The reigning EuroLeague MVP has made more two-point shots, and with better percentages, than Hunter as well as posting offensive and defensive rebounds and blocks. Most notably, he has had five times as many assists head-to-head as Hunter.
Nonetheless, Hunter has had a big impact in those games, too, averaging more than 3.0 two-point shots and nearly 4.0 rebounds. Most importantly, in those 11 games, Hunter and the teams he played for hold a 6-5 edge in victories over Vesely's Fenerbahce. The clash on Thursday in Tel Aviv will be another chapter in this big-man rivalry.