01 September, 2016
30 April, 2017
10 Daniele Cavaliero (ITA)
14/10/2016
News
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Continuity is a virtue in Group C

(Basketball Champions League) – Coaching and job security are two concepts that do not usually coincide in the fast-changing and unforgiving world of professional basketball, but Group C of the Regular Season appears to be a safe-haven of sorts in that respect.

All eight teams in the group still have the same coach at the helm they had last season and even the year before, while when it comes to Ozan Bulkaz at Usak Sportif and Soulis Markopoulos at PAOK the coach has already served the club for at least a decade, albeit in the case of the Greek coach the current spell in the role (his third) started in 2009.

THEORETICAL FAVOURITES

Reigning French champions ASVEL Lyon-Villerbaune did not start their title defence in ideal fashion but this team already knows how to navigate bumps on the road and some changes are imminent following the departure of point guard Kwame Vaughn this week. Trenton Meacham, Nikola Dragovic and Nicolas Lang will be key players all season and of course the all-round play of Charles Kahudi will have an important ipact when he recovers from injury.

Muratbey Usak Sportif must have watched hours of footage of Maccabi Rand Media Rishon last season and were obviously impressed by how point guard Mark Lyons and center Darryl Monroe led them to the Israeli Winner League crown and the FIBA Europe Cup, because they signed both of them in the summer. The unexpected sensation so far for Usak however has been forward Shaquielle O'Neal McKissic (no relation to Shaquille O'Neal) who has overcome adversity in his life and can only improve further if he finds stability at Usak.

EWE Baskets Oldenburg have found in experienced center Brian Qvale a focal point for their offence that does not only score buckets himself but also creates the necessary space for their many shooters. The player to take more threes of course will be veteran small forward Rickey Paulding, who has not lost his soft touch despite turning 34 later this month.

FLYING UNDER THE RADAR BUT MIGHTY CLOSE

Openjobmetis Varese maintained their Italian core largely intact but after changing their foreign players they are still a work in progress that will pick up pace as the season progresses, just as they had done last year. It has already become apparent none the less that experienced forward Christian Eyenga will justify high expectations while guard Melvin Johnson will be the motor of the team.

PAOK are in a certain way the very definition of a side that flies under the radar and can exceed expectations because under coach Markopoulos, the team has always been much stronger than the sum of its parts. Guards Darryl Bryant and Apollon Tsochlas will mastermind the offence and veteran center Andreas Glyniadakis will quietly be one of the most effective big men in the competition. Latvian international Zanis Peiners meanwhile, who signed for PAOK in the summer, will face his old club, Ventspils.

The only way is up for Rosa Radom in recent years and the Polish Cup holders appear to have found in Tyrone Brazelton and Gary Bell the dynamic duo that will propel them even higher. In addition to the two American guards, winger Michal Sokolowski is another player who will not hesitate to shoot the ball from any distance and for good reason. While it is still early days in the season, Rosa appear able to beat any team when their shots drop in with a reasonable frequency.

Neptunas Klaipeda share a common trait with ASVEL in that their domestic league got off to bumpy start but they are the kind of team that you can trust they will find their way during the season. The only question mark is whether they can recover their best form before it is too late in Group C. Much will depend on whether natural-born-shooter James Baron can find the hot hand, on whether veterans Larry Drew and Martynas Mažeika can create for their team-mates as much as for themselves and on the consistency of forward Mindaugas Kacinas, who at 23 has emerged as the leading rebounder on the team.

BK Ventspils will of course miss at the beginning of the season their leader Kristaps Janicenoks who has still not returned from the serious injury he suffered last year, but in his absence they have been showcasing impressive balance on offence. Ronalds Zaķis and Andrejs Grazulis form a mobile frontcourt duo while on the perimeter Aigars Skele and Rihards Kuksiks can out-shoot anybody and youngster Rihards Lomasz is poised for a break-out season.