In the first part of our new series entitled “Boston Athlete of the Day”, I will focus on Vitaly Potapenko, the Ukraine Train. Potapenko was one of my favorite Celtics players in the 1990′s, mostly due to the fact that he was only one of five Ukrainian players to ever play in the NBA. Potapenko played his college ball at the prestigious Wright State University in Ohio, well-known for the countless basketball players they have produced. The Ukraine Train was drafted 12th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1996 NBA Draft and played there for three seasons before joining the Celtics.
The basketball world, no wait, the whole sports world was changed forever on March 11, 1999, when the Cavs traded away Potepenko to the C’s for Andrew Declercq and a first-round draft pick. In his first full season donning the green and white, Potapenko averaged 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 22.7 minutes a game. The Ukraine Train’s production fell the next year, as he only averaged 7.5 points and 6 rebounds in 23.2 minutes of action. In Potapenko’s finally season with the Green, Potapenko averaged 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds while playing 17 minutes a game.
On July 22, 2002, the history of the Boston Celtics would be forever altered when they traded away Potapenko along with Kenny Anderson and Jospeh Forte to the Oklahoma City Thunder formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics for Vin Baker and Shammond Williams. Potapenko retired from the NBA after the 2007 season and now is an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers. I will always love you Ukraine Train!