Oostende flying to heaven eleven with core intact: Fourth new player comes in
OSTEND (Belgium) - They have won ten straight league titles in Belgium, so Filou Oostende's motto for the upcoming season is heaven eleven. Belgian champs are ready to do their thing in the Basketball Champions League, too, judging by the roster they put together this summer.
Coach Dario Gjergja signed a new five-year contract last summer, meaning he's staying at the helm of the ship at least until 2025. The Croatian playcaller made a name for himself by promoting young talented players, and Filou Oostende 2021-22 look like a perfect team for his kind of ball:
Dusan Djordjevic will be Gjergja's right arm on the floor again, the 38-year-old serving as a mentor for the youngsters. Keye van der Vuurst de Vries (19 years old), Simon Buysse (24), Servaas Buysschaert (22), Haris Bratanovic (20), Jesse Waleson (20), Salim Kediambiko (20) and Xander Pintelon (18) are all returning to the squad, with help from more experienced domestic players in Pierre Antoine Gillet (30) and Olivier Troisfontaines (31).
That means ten of Gjergja's 13 players in the senior squad are players who already worked with him and have been a part of the Filou Oostende machinery for at least a year, giving the perennial Belgian champs a backbone to work around for the upcoming season.
The transfer period saw them bring in three new guys so far. Levi Randolph is the best known name in the Basketball Champions League circles, having played for Sidigas Avellino, Dinamo Sassari and SIG Strasbourg from 2016 to 2018. The 28-year-old tried his luck with Canton Charge in the NBA G League over the next three years, had a two-way contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers before moving to New Zealand Breakers in the NBL, where he averaged 15 points per game in 2021.
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Randolph should be the main offensive threat for coach Gjergja. He can do it all - play as a ballhandler, shoot his pullups and spotups, has a good looking stroke from beyond the three-point arc and is athletic enough to run the floor.
While Levi should be in charge of scoring, Phil Booth is there to do the distributing for the entire team. The point guard is 25, starting his European career after winning the NCAA championship twice under coach Jay Wright's guidance at Villanova. Booth was the hero in the 2016 title game, scoring a team-high 20 points against North Carolina.
Booth also played in the 2018 run for the Wildcats, and led them in scoring with 18.6 points in his senior year. He went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft, tried his luck with the Capital City Go-Go and Oklahoma City Blue in the NBA G League before embarking on his first overseas adventure in Belgium.
Another rookie coming in is Mikael Jantunen. The Finnish power forward went through two years of Utah Utes program in the NCAA before opting to turn professional this summer. The 21-year-old did not have to wait a long time to find a new club, Oostende laid out the best offer for the man who is no stranger to FIBA basketball.
Jantunen averaged 17.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game during the FIBA U18 European Championship in 2018, and played for the senior national team in both the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers and the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers. He fits Gjergja's mold of young and hungry perfectly.
The latest addition to the team is Brandon McCoy. The American center played for the USA national team at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017, and spent the 2017-18 season with UNLV in the NCAA, using his seven-footer frame to collect 16.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
McCoy just turned 23 and has professional experience from his days with the Wisconsin Herd in the NBA G League and Zlatibor in Serbia.