Friday of Round 23 brings an intriguing Russian derby between UNICS Kazan and CSKA Moscow, a clash that features a vintage head-to-head duel between a pair of three-time EuroLeague champions, long-time teammates and friends, Andrey Vorontsevich of UNICS Kazan and Nikita Kurbanov of CSKA Moscow.
The two players spent 11 seasons together with CSKA. Their first two-year stint together started with Vorontsevich’s arrival to the club in 2006. The second stint was between 2009 and 2012 and the third from 2015 to 2020.
No players have appeared in more EuroLeague games in a CSKA uniform than these two. Kurbanov currently sits at 287 appearances with the Russian powerhouse, earlier this season having surpassed Vorontsevich who had been club’s record-holder in games played entering this season, with 274.
Together, they also helped CSKA to a pair of EuroLeague crowns, in 2016 and 2019. Kurbanov had also won the continental trophy with CSKA in 2006, while Vorontsevich did so two years later, in 2008, when Kurbanov was on loan at UNICS. Kurbanov, who grew up with CSKA, had two one-year stints with UNICS, with the second coming in the 2013-14 season, when he helped the team reach the EuroCup Finals.
With both players only having played EuroLeague games in CSKA’s uniform before this season, the Round 15 clash when UNICS visited Moscow and beat CSKA was the first time they found themselves on the opposite sides.
UNICS dominated that night, beating CSKA in Moscow 67-88, and Vorontsevich was also the more successful of the two, playing 18:32 minutes and finishing the game with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Meanwhile, Kurbanov finished the game scoreless in 14 minutes, missing all 4 of his shot attempts while pulling down 2 rebounds.
This season, Kurbanov has started every game for CSKA. He is posting 3.8 points per game, which is his lowest mark since the 2011-12 seasons. The CSKA forward is also making 37.5% from long range and grabbing 2.2 rebounds per game.
Vorontsevich, who was sidelined for five games earlier this season, has started in 10 of his 14 appearances. He scored 10 or more points in five games this season and is averaging 6.4 per game. He is shooting 55.6% on two-pointers and 39.5% on threes while also posting 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
For his career, Vorontsevich has posted 5.6 points on 40.1% three-point shooting and 3.1 rebounds over appeared in 288 games. Meanwhile, Kurbanov has just 1 fewer appearance with career averages of 4.5 points on 38.3% three-point shooting and 3.0 rebounds.
Both players bring their teams a lot more than what pure numbers would suggest, however. 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, for just the second time in their long careers, two players who know just about everything about each other will get a chance to test themselves head-to-head on the EuroLeague stage again in a pivotal match for their respective teams.