The new player of the Bulgarian champion Lukoil Academic – the Latvian center Kaspars Kambala arrived today in Sofia. The 6`9 player will play for the “Students” the upcoming season which will start with two games against the Greek side Aris (Thessaloniki) in the qualifying round of this season’s EuroCup.

The UNLV graduate has a one year contract with Lukoil Academic and will wear jersey number 34. Same as it was in his former club – Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia).

“Obviously, these guys here, cares a lot about basketball. So I decided to come out and see what is going to be like. You know that last year I played in Russia and the people there really like basketball. I want to play in a place like this”, said Kambala at his first meeting with the Bulgarian media.

Lukoil Academic will host Aris on September 29th with a second leg game on October the 6th in Thessaloniki. But is there enough time for the forward-center to fit with his new teammates?

“Of course I will be ready for the games against Aris. My stay here going to be a challenge for everybody in this championship”, commented also the often called by fans “Kas”.

Seven years ago Kambala and his former team Real (Madrid) lost in “Universiada” Hall in Sofia to Lukoil Academic. The game is part of the Group A programme of the EuroCup. The “Students” rallied from 21 down before halftime to beat Real 93-91 as the American center Priest Lauderdale posted 24 points and 12 rebounds. Now Lauderdale is back to Bulgaria, playing for Chernomorets (Burgas) and the two big guys will meet again on the court. The game between Chernomorets and Lukoil Academic is set for October the 30th.

“I am just saying to my wife that I was playing here with Real (Madrid) years ago. I know that I will meet Priest Lauderdale again, but that is what happens. I don’t know more for the Bulgarian basketball, than anything about Lukoil, but this team is a champion for 7 years in a row, so we got to keep it going. I really want to beat Aris and play in serious European competition,” said the former professional boxer.

Kambala was suspended from professional basketball in 2006 when he played in the Euroleague for the Turkish giants, Fenerbahce Ulker. He did not play basketball for two years because of the failed drug test. After that he decided to become a professional boxer.

“I got a lot of fights in boxing and I am undefeated. I choose boxing, because I wanted to be tough for myself and to see if it work out. It`s worked out really good”, said Kambala.

Racho Kolev for

Racho is a basketball writer, based in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is an assistant editor for