Friday of Round 23 brings an intriguing Russian derby between UNICS Kazan and CSKA Moscow, a clash that sparked a vintage head-to-head duel between some three-time EuroLeague champions, longtime teammates and friends, Andrey Vorontsevich of UNICS Kazan and Nikita Kurbanov from CSKA Moscow.
The two players spent 11 seasons with CSKA. Their first two years together began with Vorontsevich’s arrival at the club in 2006. The second shift was between 2009 and 2012 and the third from 2015 to 2020.
No player has appeared in a CSKA uniform in more EuroLeague matches than these two. Kurbanov currently has 287 games alongside the Russian powerhouse, who surpassed Vorontsevich earlier this season, who was the club’s record holder in games played this season, with 274.
Together they also helped CSKA get some EuroLeague crowns, in 2016 and 2019. Kurbanov also won the continental trophy with CSKA in 2006, while Vorontsevich did so two years later, in 2008, when Kurbanov joined UNICS was borrowed. Kurbanov, who grew up with CSKA, had two one-year terms at UNICS, with the second time in the 2013-14 season, when he helped the team reach the EuroCup final.
With both players playing EuroLeague matches in CSKA’s uniform just before this season, the Round 15 clash was when UNICS visited Moscow and beat CSKA, the first time they found themselves on opposite sides.
UNICS dominated that night and beat CSKA in Moscow 67-88, and Vorontsevich was also the more successful of the two, playing 18:32 minutes and finishing the match with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Meanwhile, Kurbanov ended the game pointless within 14 minutes and missed all 4 of his shot attempts while pulling down 2 rebounds.
This season, Kurbanov started every game for CSKA. He scores 3.8 points per game, which is his lowest point since the 2011-12 season. The CSKA forward also makes 37.5% from long distance and grabs 2.2 rebounds per game.
Vorontsevich, who was sidelined for five games earlier this season, started in 10 of his 14 appearances. He has scored 10 or more points in five games this season and is averaging 6.4 per game. He shoots 55.6% on two-pointers and 39.5% on tries while also delivering 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
For his career, Vorontsevich scored 5.6 points on 40.1% three-point shooting and 3.1 bounces over appeared in 288 games. Meanwhile, Kurbanov had just 1 less appearance with career averages of 4.5 points on 38.3% three-point shooting and 3.0 bouncing.
However, both players bring their teams much more than pure numbers would suggest. Kurbanov and Vorontsevich are reliable, team-first competitors with valuable versatility, as well as toughness that sets the tone for their entire teams.
On Friday night, two players who know just about everything about each other for only the second time in their long careers get a chance to test themselves head-to-head on the EuroLeague stage again in a crucial match for their respective teams.