08 October, 2019
04 October, 2020
5 Keith Langford (AEK)
to read

Where we left off: AEK

ATHENS (Greece) - You know that AEK will do battle with ERA Nymburk in Athens, in the third Quarter-Final of the Basketball Champions League Final 8, but you don't quite remember how the 'Queen' got to this point? Don't worry, we got you covered!


What Did AEK's Play Look Like Before the Hiatus?

  • AEK had somewhat of a peculiar campaign in the sense that while they managed to be such an overall competent team, inspiring respect no matter who or where they played, it's really difficult to find a standout characteristic of their game, except perhaps their ability to take care of the ball (their turnover ratio of 13 was the fourth-best in the league).

  • The Athens side didn't stand out offensively as they averaged 79.7 points per game (only 17th overall) and their effective field goal percentage of 54.5 percent was solid, but ranks them only in 8th place among the 16 teams that made the Play-Offs.

  • It was a similar picture defensively, as AEK showed some very good perimeter defense and held opponents to just 32.5 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line, but they didn't exactly impress with their defense inside the arc - they allowed opponents to shoot 53.3 percent from two-point range.

  • The Greek team's... Achilles heel though was rebounding, on both ends of the floor. AEK was 29th in the league in that aspect, averaging 33.2 boards per game and had the absolute lowest defensive rebounding rate (67 percent) out of the 16 teams that made the Play-Offs.

  • So how did a team whose most impressive stat was the turnover ratio manage to achieve such good results? The simple answer is that stats do not accurately the character and craftsmanship of AEK's veteran roster, who knew how to find an extra gear in pivotal games or at crucial moments.

  • Keith Langford was, throughout the campaign, the very embodiment of this veteran quality, averaging 19.5 points per game as the league's second-leading scorer (first among players whose teams qualified for the Play-Offs) on 46 percent shooting from the floor and an average efficiency rating of 14.2.

  • Howard Sant-Roos was arguably the league's most versatile player and averaged an outstanding PER of 18.8 up until the final stretch of the Regular Season, when his stellar performances caught the eye of CSKA Moscow and he signed for the Russian power house.

  • AEK however didn't miss a beat after the Cuban forward's departure, as team-first guys like Marcus Slaughter, Jonas Maciulis and Linos Chrysikopoulos picked up the slack while the addition of Greek national team legend Nikos Zisis provided an excellent boost just at the right time.



What Had AEK Achieved Up Until March?

Regular Season
The yellow-blacks won four of their first five games, then went through a stretch of uneven displays and results but snapped out of it in time to win a pivotal Week 13 clash with RASTA Vecta on the road, effectively securing second spot in Group B behind Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem. AEK celebrated their largest margin of victory on the opening day, beating Pau-Lacq-Orthez 102-82 at home, while their most troubling loss was the 96-84 defeat at home to Teksut Bandirma on Gameday 11, which nearly derailed their bid for a top-2 finish in the group.

Round of 16
AEK defeated Telekom Baskets Bonn 92-85 in a hard-fought Game 1 at home, thanks largely to their dominance on the glass (they out-rebounded the German team 41 to 32) and the fact they forced turnovers and scored 25 points off them. Kendrick Ray came up with his best game in an AEK jersey and poured in 27 points on 10 of 16 shooting from the floor.
In Game 2 in Germany, AEK lost the battle on the boards but scored even more points off Bonn turnovers, 29, and their experience showed in the final stretch for the Greek team to clinch a 90-86 win and close out the series. Keith Langford scored 25 points while Marcus Slaughter posted a near double-double of 17 points and 9 rebounds.

 What Will Stay the Same? What's New?

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is not an ancient Greek adage but AEK still abide by it and with good reason, as their veteran players felt like they had unfinished business and wanted to come back and finish the job.

So the 'Queen' has retained head coach Ilias Papatheodorou and managed to reunite the band - Keith Langford, Nikos Zisis, Marcus Slaughter, Jonas Maciulis will put on the yellow-black jersey for another season.

The arrival of Yanick Moreira adds some much-needed size in the paint, Matt Lojeski is a battle-hardened veteran at the small forward spot and Kostas Gontikas is a new backup solution at center.

Kendrick Ray, an undoubtedly talented player, has departed, but there were times when he seemed to struggle to find his role in the backcourt so AEK replaced him by bringing in Tyrese Rice, the 2019 BCL MVP who also happens to be a proven great fit next to Zisis from their time together at Brose Bamberg.