01 September, 2016
30 April, 2017
23 Quantez Lamar ROBERTSON (Fraport Skyliners)
14/10/2016
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Raising a defensive wall in Group A

(Basketball Champions League) – It is highly unlikely that any of the coaches in Regular Season Group A will imitate Detroit Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy and instruct their players to ‘build a defensive wall’ in rather explicit manner during a time-out, but you can rest assured that the nature of the teams which luck pitted together in this pool gravitates towards a defence-first approach.

The defensive schemes of Bakken might bear little resemblance to those of Aris, for example, but the end result remains that we have to do with teams with teams in this group that take extreme pride in defence.

PLAY-OFFS OR BUST

Banvit, Aris, AS Monaco and Fraport Skyliners are the four teams in this group which, regardless of whether they admit it publicly or not, consider a spot in the play-offs their primary goal and in case their Basketball Champions League ended in the Regular Season it would be deemed a failure.

Banvit started a project from scratch in the off-season by trusting the reins to Saso Filipovski, albeit the Slovenian coach has built a roster which includes players he is familiar with. They will rely mainly on their backcourt combo of Jeremy Chappell and Jordan Theodore (former Skyliners player) and their Slovenian duo of Edo Muric and Gasper Vidmar, who might not be as young any more but remains a crafty and efficient big man.

Aris have changed many pieces on the roster but are bound to showcase once again steely determination on the defensive end, trying to make life difficult for their opponents. Offensively, winger Devyn Marble and point guard Will Cummings are expected to take the lion’s share of possessions.

AS Monaco are an exciting prospect because they have at least five players who can step up at any moment during a game and change its course. Even a player who is off to a relatively slow start to the season like new signing Brandon Davies, has demonstrated he can huge contributions once he finds his rhythm. Even on a team with so many options the all-round presence of swingman Jamal Shuler will still be of critical importance.

The familiar lean figure of long-serving Fraport Skyliners coach Gordon Herbert will not be pacing the sidelines during at least the first four-five games of the Regular Season as the Canadian tactician is away on medical leave and Klaus Perwas has assumed the role of head coach, but the Frankfurt side continues along the same philosophy. Antonio Graves and their ever-green captain Quantez Robinson are key players, while it remains what role latest signing Kwame Vaughn will assume on the team.

ITCHING TO SPRING AN UPSET

The one thing that CEZ Nymburk and Ironi Nahariya have in common, apart from an Israeli coach at the helm, is the potential to snatch one of the top spots in the group, to the detriment of one of the four theoretical favourites we discussed above.



The Czech champions have maintained their core of Czech internationals intact as well as influential winger Howard Sant-Roos. Ronen Ginzburg’s team added combo guard Byron Allen who will be an important option offensively.



In stark contrast to Nymburk which is well-versed in European competitions, Nahariya are a debutant on the international stage, but that did not stop them from winning both their games against Tsmoki Minsk in Qualification Round 2. Center Yancy Gates and forward Gilbert Brown culminate most of the offensive plays and Marquis Teague (brother of Jeff, of the Indiana Pacers) does a great job directing the team but Nahariya do not rely on any one player.

THE UNDERDOGS

Bakken Bears brought back in the summer Steffen Wich, a tactician who is identified with the club, and maintained a key piece in center Michel Diouf and their important and experienced Danish core. The addition of DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell involved certain risk because of his lack of international experience but proved to be a very successful move.



Helios Suns Domzale are arguably the most homogeneous team in the group because their roster includes ten players who are either Slovenian or had previous experience in another Slovenian club. Brandyn Curry will come up with assists and three-point shooting while forward Kyle Casey is expected to emerge as scoring leader.