08 October, 2019
04 October, 2020
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Group C preview through the eyes of the Coaches

MIES (Switzerland) - If Group C unfolded on a film stage rather than on eight basketball courts scattered across Europe, its title would undoubtedly have to be The Long Road.

That’s not only because of the 5,046 kilometers between Tenerife and Gaziantep as the crow flies (the Spanish island and Nizhny are 'just’ 4,924 kilometers apart, in case you were wondering), but mainly because this group includes some of the actors that have traveled the farther in the Basketball Champions League.

Brazilian veteran Marcelinho Huertas of Tenerife got several mentions from Group C coaches

Iberostar Tenerife have logged the most miles in the history of the competition, both literally and figuratively, as they won the maiden edition of the Basketball Champions League, reached the play-offs in every subsequent season and went as far as the title game last year. Nenad Markovic, who is now the coach of Turkish side Gaziantep, was at the bench of Tenerife during the start of the 2017-18 season, so he is definitely the person who knows better than anybody just how long the trip between the two is.

Brose Bamberg had an equally deep run in 2018-19 and finished just one step below Tenerife, taking third place. Roel Moors, the new coach of the German side, was coaching Antwerp Giants in that 3rd place game after guiding the Belgian side through the longest route any team could take in the Basketball Champions League, all the way from Qualification Round 1 to the Final Four.

Nizhny Novgorod enjoyed their longest campaign in the competition last year by  reaching  the quarter-finals,  and once again Zoran Lukic, who has spent the longest part of his coaching career at the Russian club, is sitting at the edge of their bench. ERA Nymburk, just like Tenerife, have taken part in every single edition of the Basketball Champions League and have the roster with the most miles on their legs at the start of the season, as it features no less than five players who helped the Czech Republic claim an historic fifth-place finish at the Basketball World Cup in China.

Mornar Bar had competed in the inaugural season of the Basketball Champions, and are back with renewed ambitions this year, while VEF Riga and Peristeri winmasters mark their return to European competitions this year. For the Latvian side it was a relatively short  hiatus but the Greek club went through a 15-year struggle and is welcoming back as its head coach the experienced Ilias Zouros, more than two decades after he first worked there as an assistant. 

We asked the coaches of the teams in the group to help us navigate this long road and we learned quite a few things, such as: Marcelinho Huertas comes immediately to most coaches’ mind as a special player, Kingsley Moses is backed by both his former and current boss to have a breakout season, and while there is a consensus between the coaches as to which are the (two) strongest teams in the group, they would not agree on the destination if they were to go on a city break together.

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Excluding your own team, which four teams in this group have the best roster?

Janis Gailitis (VEF Riga): Maybe the teams with the biggest budget.
Zoran Lukic (Nizhny Novgorod): In my opinion, Tenerife are the favorites and then Bamberg and Gaziantep. The rest of the teams will fight for fourth place.
Nenad Markovic (Gaziantep): Tenerife, Bamberg, Mornar Bar and Nizhny Novgorod
Roel Moors (Brose Bamberg): No answer at this stage
Mihailo Pavicevic (Mornar Bar): It’s hard to say and as a coach I always believe in my team. I think, realistically Tenerife has a really good team and experience in this competition, but we’re going to fight too.
Txus Vidorreta (Iberostar Tenerife): Bamberg have the best roster, because it combines youth and experience. There is a lot of equality between the rest of the teams.
Ilias Zouros (Peristeri winmasters): Tenerife because of the players, the coach and their long experience in the competition. Second is Bamberg, because they have tradition in European competitions. Third is Nymburk, as half their players also play for the [Czech] national team. Fourth is Gaziantep, because of the roster and the fact they have the same coach the last two years


Who are the best four coaches in this group?

Janis Gailitis: Same as above
Zoran Lukic: The four coaches whose teams will be in the Play-Offs.
Nenad Markovic: No answer at this stage
Roel Moors: No answer at this stage
Mihailo Pavicevic: We will see at the end of the season, because results decide who the best coach is
Txus Vidorreta: I know Nenad Markovic and Roel Moors well, both are great coaches. Coach Zouros and coach Lukic are prestigious trainers. I am looking forward to learning new things from my confrontations with them. I know less about Oren Amiel, Mihailo Pavicevic and Janis Gallitis, who will surely contribute a lot to enrich our competition.
Ilias Zouros: Vidoretta of Tenerife, Markovic of Gaziantep, Lukic of Nizhny and Amiel of Numburk


Which games in this group would you recommend watching to a neutral basketball fan?

Janis Gailitis: I would suggest to watch all the games, because basketball is so unpredictable and that is why we love it so much.
Zoran Lukic: For sure the games between Tenerife and Bamberg, because of their fans.
Nenad Markovic: The games between Bamberg and Tenerife
Roel Moors: Besides our games, I think the ones between Tenerife and Mornar Bar
Mihailo Pavicevic: What comes immediately to my mind are the two games between Mornar and Tenerife, because we’re likely going to play similar basketball, with fast pace and lots of scoring, so they will be fun to watch
Txus Vidorreta: The games between Bamberg and Nizhny, as last season they reached the Final Four and the quarter-finals, respectively.
Ilias Zouros: Peristeri vs. Tenerife, Bamberg vs. Tenerife, Peristeri vs. Bamberg and Nymburk vs. Peristeri.

Three coaches make a special reference to the offensive prowess of Mornar Bar's Jacob Pullen

Which of these games will be the toughest for your team, taking into account the opponent, travel and schedule?

Janis Gailitis: The hardest games will probably be the ones that involve the longest flights, Tenerife and Gazientep
Zoran Lukic: All games will be difficult for us. I don’t consider my team as the leader at the beginning of the regular season. We need to fight for the Play-Offs.
Nenad Markovic: Tenerife, because it is a long trip and they are a very strong team
Roel Moors: Mornar Bar is always tough, Gaziantep is a tough trip and Nizhny is a really tough trip, it also depends on whether we have a Sunday game [for the German league].
Mihailo Pavicevic: The next game will always be the toughest one for me, because all eight teams in this group are very good
Txus Vidorreta: All our trips are very long this season, so all of them will be complicated given also the great quality of our rivals
Ilias Zouros: Tenerife, because of the long trip and because that same week we’re playing a tough game on the road in the Greek league. Gaziantep away, because that same week we’re facing AEK away in the domestic league, and Nizhny because of the long trip.


Which player(s) in this group is special, either because of a specific skill or because they are difficult to defend?

Janis Gailitis: No answer at this stage
Zoran Lukic: I can't choose. There are interesting players in our group for sure.
Nenad Markovic: Marcelinho Huertas of Tenerife
Roel Moors: Marcelinho Huertas for his experience at the highest level and Jacob Pullen of Mornar Bar, also for his experience as well as his scoring ability.
Mihailo Pavicevic: Marcelinho Huertas is the biggest name, there are a lot of other good players, and I also hope Jacob Pullen will be up there
Txus Vidorreta: Paris Lee of Bamberg, William Hatcher of Peristeri, Janis Blums of VEF Riga, Ivan Strebkov of Nizhny, Vojtech Hruban of Nymburk, Stevan Jelovac of Gaziantep or Milko Bjelica of Mornar Bar are all players of proven experience and skill
Ilias Zouros: Giorgi Shermadini of Tenerife, Drew Crawford of Gaziantep, Paris Lee of Bamberg and Jacob Pullen of Mornar Bar


Which player(s) in this group could be a positive surprise?

Janis Gailitis: I hope that it is our guy Artūrs Kurucs
Zoran Lukic: There are a few very interesting young players on Bamberg’s roster, young guys who want to prove themselves. They could have a good season for the German club.
Nenad Markovic: No answer at this stage
Roel Moors: I think Kameron Taylor from our team can be a surprise, and also Moses Kingsley of Peristeri, if he stays healthy. I had him last year but he was unlucky with injuries
Mihailo Pavicevic: There several players in this group who can explode during this season
Txus Vidorreta: Players like Aleix Font or Louis Olinde (both of Bamberg) can be the surprise of the season
Ilias Zouros: Moses Kingsley of Peristeri


Will this be a group for perimeter players or big men?

Janis Gailitis: Guards are more important right now, but one can't exist without the other.
Zoran Lukic: Only the team can be important
Nenad Markovic: Both guards and bigs are important
Roel Moors: Basketball is always a relationship between the two. It depends of course on the team you play, but generally I don’t think it’s a league of guards or a league of big men
Mihailo Pavicevic: It’s not a secret that nowadays guards win championships. I always respect big men, but basketball is going in a direction where guards become more and more important.
Txus Vidorreta: There are a lot of quality perimeter players, but big men will be more decisive
Ilias Zouros: Perimeter players


Which team in this group plays a style of basketball that you find interesting?

Janis Gailitis: No answer at this stage
Zoran Lukic: Tenerife and Bamberg are the teams which play at very high level so I'm sure they can show very interesting basketball. And once again I would like to mention their fans.
Nenad Markovic: Tenerife because of its very good ball movement
Roel Moors: No answer at this stage
Mihailo Pavicevic: Tenerife because Spanish basketball is always entertaining, and I like their fast transition game
Txus Vidorreta: All teams have weapons that make them attractive, but last year I really liked Nizhny’s style of play. They play with a lot of pace and are very intense
Ilias Zouros: Tenerife because their game philosophy is different to that of the other teams.

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Squad 2019/2020 #Basketballherz

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Which team in this group will have the best defense and which one the best offense?

Janis Gailitis: No answer at this stage
Zoran Lukic: I can't say before the games start
Nenad Markovic: Tenerife the best offense and Gaziantep the best defense
Roel Moors: Hopefully we will have the best defense, but of course we will have to prove that. I also think Tenerife will have a strong defense, like always. Offensively, Mornar Bar have a starting five of good offensive players, but I don’t yet know their rotation.
Mihailo Pavicevic: Offensively, I think it’s going to be either Tenerife or our team. Defensively it’s more difficult to say, but probably Peristeri, Gaziantep or Bamberg
Txus Vidorreta: Mornar has a lot of scorers and could be a powerful offensive team. Nizhny, Peristeri and Bamberg will be solid, but I hope that Iberostar Tenerife will have again the best defense
Ilias Zouros: Peristeri the best defense, Nymburk the best offense


Which team will have the fastest and which team the slowest pace?

Janis Gailitis: Maybe the teams that have the most athletic players will have the fastest pace
Zoran Lukic: Tenerife will play fast basketball, like they do in the Spanish Liga Endesa.
Nenad Markovic: No answer at this stage
Roel Moors: No answer at this stage
Mihailo Pavicevic: No answer at this stage
Txus Vidorreta: It is very difficult to answer this question without having seen the teams play. A priori Nymburk and Mornar will be fast teams. Bamberg and Gaziantep could play less possessions
Ilias Zouros: Nymburk to be the fastest


If you could spend a couple of extra days in one of the seven cities you will visit, which one would it be? And if you took out the whole team to a restaurant which city would you choose?

Janis Gailitis: Tenerife, because it will be warm when we play our game there.
Zoran Lukic: It would be Gaziantep for sure. I like Turkish cuisine and Baklava is the best in Gaziantep!
Nenad Markovic: I would visit Prague [Nymburk is a short drive from the Czech capital] and take the team out for dinner in Prague
Roel Moors: Of course Peristeri because it’s in Athens, maybe Prague too can be interesting. But we’re there to play basketball, not to visit the restaurants!
Mihailo Pavicevic: Every city is nice but Tenerife is our favourite place
Txus Vidorreta: I would choose Riga as the city and a restaurant in Athens
Ilias Zouros: Tenerife


Is the team that will win the Basketball Champions League title in this group?

Janis Gailitis: I hope that yes
Zoran Lukic: Maybe
Nenad Markovic: No answer at this stage
Roel Moors: I have to say yes
Mihailo Pavicevic: No answer at this stage
Txus Vidorreta: Yes
Ilias Zouros: Yes