Polish champs update their roster: Drechsel arrives from Partizan Belgrade
OSTROW WIELKOPOLSKI (Poland) - Arged BM Stal Ostrow Wielkopolski are entering their first Basketball Champions League campaign as the reigning Polish champions and the runners up of the 2021 FIBA Europe Cup. BCL is a logical next step for the ambitious project from the Greater Poland Voivodeship.
There is a familiar name at the helm. Coach Igor Milicic has been a winner wherever he appeared in Poland, picking up a number of domestic titles, and his Basketball Champions League runs with Anwil Wloclawek made him a favorite in our tactical breakdowns.
Here's what the Croatian playcaller has on his 2021-22 coaching board with the Polish champs:
James Florence, Jaroslaw Mokros and Denzel Andersson are the only returning players from the 2021 title run. Milicic and the front office spiced up the rest of the rosters, bringing in a lot of big names and interesting prospects.
Vangelis Mantzaris is the most famous of the newcomers. The Greek international won back-to-back EuroLeague titles with Olympiacos in 2012 and 2013, and spent eight years with the club, before moving to Unics Kazan two years ago.
That adventure did not last long. By December 2019 he was back in Greece, playing the rest of the season with Promitheas, and in 2020-21 he returned to Peristeri, the club where he started his professional career. Mantzaris is 31, with a lot of basketball still in front of him.
Mantzaris likes to be in the background, not standing out. On the other end of the scale is Trey Drechsel, a 25-year-old combo guard who runs his own YouTube channel, detailing everything that's going on in a career of a professional basketball player in Europe.
Drechsel is Partizan Belgrade player coming in on a loan deal in search of meaningful minutes. He went through a loan deal in 2020-21, too, playing for Mladost Zemun, averaging 18.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game in the Adriatic League second division.
He went from playing the "two" and "three" positions to moving to more point guard duties last season, meaning we could see him with the ball in his hands a lot more in Poland. Drechsel helped Mladost win the Basketball League of Serbia in 2021, and they also reached the Quarter-Finals of the Super League, where the best teams of Serbian League played against the Serbian teams competing in the Adriatic League.
Both Drechsel and Mantzaris know what it's like to win championships, and Terry Larrier is coming in as a champion, too. The 26-year-old from the Bronx, New York led Norrkoping Dolphins to Swedish League title last season, scoring 17 points per game.
Larrier went through VCU and UConn programs in the NCAA, and the 6'7''/2.01m tall forward got his first taste of professional basketball by playing with the Agua Caliente Clippers in the NBA G League in 2019-20. Larrier is not just a basketball player, he also has a college degree in urban and community studies.
Larrier will get to see another former member of the Agua Caliente Clippers in Poland. James Palmer Jr played for the NBA G League squad from 2019 to 2021, and playing in Ostrow Wielkopolski will be his first overseas experience.
Pamer Jr started his NCAA career with Miami, but transferred to Nebraska in 2016 and played two productive seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19, averaging 17.2 and 19.7 points per game, respectively. Palmer Jr is 6'5''/1.96m tall and plays the shooting guard position.
Michael Young is a 27-year-old with four years of professional basketball already behind him. He improved in each of his four college season with Pittsburgh, averaging 19.6 points and 6.8 rebounds as a senior in 2016-17.
He went through NBA G League and Puerto Rico before getting to Europe and singing with Cholet and Dijon. Young played his best basketball in Israel, with 18.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game with Gilboa Galil in 2019-20 and 15.8 points, 6.1 rebounds with Ironi Nahariya last time around.
Milicic also brought in domestic players, with Aleksander Zalucki, Jakub Wojciechowski, Igor Wadowski and Damian Kulig joining the club. Zalucki is a 23-year-old guard who spent the last two season in the second division, building his confidence back up to play at the top level, as he made his first division debut back in 2015-16.
Wojciechowski is a 31-year-old, a seven-footer who made a name for himself in Italy, playing with Piacenza, Treviso, Brindisi, Torino, Mantova, Cantu, Cremona, Orlandina, Biella and Milano. He also played for Anwil Wloclawek in 2018, winning the Polish League with coach Milicic.
Wadowski is a 25-year-old shooter who also played under Milicic in Anwil from 2018 to 2020. He spent the last season with Gdynia, getting 21 minutes per game, and averaging seven points and three assists.
Kulig will bring a lot experience down low for Arged BM Stal Ostrow Wielkopolski. He is 34, and played the first Final of the Basketball Champions League, back in 2017 with Banvit from Turkey. That is not his only BCL experience, since he represented Polski Cukier Torun over the last two years.