Group B is the Regular Season’s field of dreams
(Basketball Champions League) – The eight clubs that will battle it out in Group B share a common history trait. Whereas each one of the other four Regular Season pools features one or more participants which possess European silverware in their trophy case, none of the Group B teams have ever lifted a European trophy.
Umana Reyer Venezia and Pinar Karsiyaka are the two came who came closer, as the Italian side was the 1981 Korac Cup runner-up and the Turkish side reached the 2013 EuroChallenge final. For all eight Group B participating teams then, the Basketball Champions League is a historical occasion which fuels their dreams of a milestone European success.
Umana Reyer Venezia are off to a solid start in the Serie A on the back of what appears to be the start of a break-out season for young Italian guard Stefano Tonut. He is one piece of a formidable backcourt which also includes Tyrus McGee, the best three-point shooter during last year’s Regular Season (while at Cremona) as well as Marquez Haynes who is a resourceful scorer with a wide repertoire.
At Pinar Karsiyaka, Polish international Mateusz has adapted admirably fast to his new surroundings in Turkey and is leading the team in scoring after their early games in the BSL league. Together with point guard Kevin Dillard, combo guard J’Covan Brown and small forward DaJuan Summers, a former NBAer, they make up Karsiyaka’s back-line which certainly is the driving force of the Turkish side this season.
Le Mans Sarthe have entered their third season under head coach Erman Kunter and this year they have put together a roster that is characterised by its balance but still has margin to improve following a 2-2 start in the Pro A league. French international Mickael Gelabale is the leader of the team while forward Ryan Pearson and shooting guard Olivier Hanlan have assumed the biggest load on offence.
There are many teams that strive to play up-tempo but Avtodor Saratov is probably the only team, at least in European hoops, to consider establishing a fast pace as the core of their approach to the game and the philosophy of the club. Experienced coach Sergei Mokin returned n early October to take the reins of the team, which features Nicolas Minnerath and Branden Fraizer in leading roles. Russian international Artem Klimenko is at the center position while John Stockton’s elder son, Michael, is the starting point guard.
Maccabi Rand Media Rishon, the reigning Israeli champions, have had to change almost their entire starting line-up from last season’s triumphant title win. Coach Ari Shivek’s main task so far therefore has been to build team chemistry and make sure the new pieces fit in. Guard Anthony Hilliard with his multi-faceted play appears destined to be the new leader of the team, while veteran point guard Avraham Ben Chimol has had a great start to the new season.
Khimik have commenced their Ukrainian league title defence in ideal fashion, as they have won all six of their six domestic encounters so far. Part of the reason behind their perfect start are the stellar displays of point guard Jaime Smith, who leads the Ukrainian championship in scoring with almost 20 points per game. Meanwhile power forward Viacheslav Petrov, as per usual, continues to average close to double-double figures in points and rebounds.
Kataja Basket, the proud representative of Finnish basketball in European club competitions decided to shake things up in the summer and so far the decision appears to be paying off, judging by their great start in the domestic league and their successful passage from Qualification Round 2 to the Regular Season. Legend Teemu Rannikko is once again a leading figure on the team, while new arrival Daniel Mullings is already leaving his mark with his scoring prowess.
CSM CSU Oradea had never advanced past the preliminary round of a European competition prior to this season, when the Romanian side became the only team to go through both Qualification Rounds in order to earn a spot in the Basketball Champions League Regular Season. The all-round presence of Sean Barnette and the efficiency of Martin Zeno are the motor of the team, with Branko Mirkovic and Muhamed Pasalic providing extra finesse to form a side that can surprise more than one opponent.