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Player Analysis: Kyrylo Fesenko

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 5, 2012

In this series of blogs analyzing each player on the roster, I am charged with sharing insider knowledge and perspective gained through decades of experience covering the Pacers to provide detailed information you can get nowhere else.

Which brings us to Kyrylo Fesenko, or Fez, as he is more easily called.

After watching the 7-1, 280-pound native of Ukraine in a handful of practices and three regular-season games -- in other words, the sum total of his time on the court with the Pacers -- I can offer the following insight: He's really big.

Beyond that, well, I just don't know.

Clearly, Fez is more than just a guy with a quick smile and sharp wit. He quickly established himself as the funniest player on the roster and enjoyed almost instant popularity with his self-effacing personality and genial warmth.

But can he help this team win games?

That is the great unknown.

Signed in late March, when the Pacers were headed toward a showdown with Orlando in the first round of the playoffs, Fez was brought aboard to give the team size and six fouls to use against the Magic's Dwight Howard. When Howard wound up pulling the plug on the rest of his season thanks to a back problem, Fez was left without a role.

Indiana was far from the only interested team. Milwaukee, Boston and Miami all had taken a look. Fez was available only because of a knee injury sustained while playing for Ukraine during EuroBasket in September. He came close to signing with Golden State after the lockout was lifted in December but the Warriors correctly assessed he was not fully rehabbed and ready to play, so no deal was struck.

Fez spent the next few months in Denver doing rehab and workouts before signing with the Pacers.

In three regular season appearances he totaled 17 minutes, eight points and nine rebounds. He did not play in the postseason.

"Fez just needs an opportunity," Coach Frank Vogel said. "We're really high on what we think he can do. We think he can have similar growth that Roy (Hibbert) had in our system over the last couple of years with the way we play and the power-post game and just using his size inside defensively. He's got to have the mindset that he wants to come in and be Roy's backup and outplay Lou (Amundson) for that (backup center) position and redefine what the bench looks like."

A solid but under-sized backup center, Amundson is a free agent. So is Fesenko, for that matter. But the Pacers clearly need another big body on the bench to support Hibbert -- and Fesenko certainly is that.

He has some quality experience, spending his first four NBA seasons with the Jazz, averaging 8.3 minutes, 2.3 points and 2.0 rebounds. His zenith came during in 2010, when he started nine of Utah's 10 playoff games, averaging 18.1 minutes, 3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds.

Fez moves well around the basket and has a reputation for strong low-post defense. You get the impression if he ever fully committed to a rigorous strength and conditioning program, following Hibbert's lead, he could become something more than a curiosity.

Until then, Fez will remain something of a mystery man.

After finishing up his post-practice workout in one of his early sessions with the Pacers, Fez walked over to the corner of the court where the media was gathered, smiled and said, "OK, I am ready for interviews."

When he found no takers, he feigned hurt feelings, shook his head and said, "I will remember this when I am starting center."

Even if that never happens -- and it very probably will not -- Fez has been nonetheless unforgettable.

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