Transfer watch: The Queen searching for a way back to the throne
MIES (Switzerland) - AEK won the Basketball Champions League back in 2018, reached the Final in 2020, but have been in their worst season to date in 2021-22. Now, they put together a good looking roster to get them back on top.
There is a new coach at the helm. Ilias Kantzouris is a 49-year-old playcaller who spent 19 years as assistant coach all over the continent, including a short spell as Brose Bamberg's coach in 2018. He took his first head coaching job with Iraklis in 2020, then spent the last two seasons in Kolossos Rodou. Kantzouris already knows the system in AEK, he was there when they won the 2019 FIBA Intercontinental Cup.
Compared to 2021-22, AEK no longer have Keith Langford, Nikos Pappas, Giannis Kouzeloglou, Andy Rautins, Quino Colom, Braian Angola, Eric Griffin and Michalis Karlis. Meaning, they had to build a new roster from scratch.
The backcourt will be headed by Tim Frazier. The 31-year-old point guard has almost 300 NBA games of experience, including a number of double-doubles with points and assists, and one triple-double off the bench when he was a part of the New Orleans Pelicans in 2016.
Frazier is embarking on his first European experience. He last played for the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers, both on 10-day contracts in 2021-22.
Kenny Williams was the first man to be signed by AEK this off season. The 25-year-old shooting guard will have zero issues with adjusting to the new team, because he played under coach Kantzouris in Kolossos Rodou last season, getting 12.7 points per game.
Williams averaged double digits for North Carolina back in 2017-18, and spent his first two season as a pro with the Austin Spurs. He had a short stint with Bnei Herzliya in Israel in 2021, before making a name for himself in Greece in 2021-22.
Williams and Frazier will share the backcourt duties with Janis Strelnieks. The 32-year-old sharpshooter is making a comeback to Greece, where he had played from 2017 to 2019, wearing the red and white of Olympiacos, before making a trip to CSKA Moscow and Zalgiris.
Strelnieks also has experience of playing under coach Kantzouris, They spent a couple of seasons together in Bamberg, including the 2016-17 run, Janis' only double-digit average scoring season in the EuroLeague with 11.7 points per game, mostly coming off the bench.
Cameron McGriff will cover the wing. He is 24, also played for the Portland Trail Blazers, as Tim Frazier, and McGriff did it just last season, spending time both with the Blazers and the Greensboro Swarm in the NBA G League.
McGriff already has some international experience, having played for Okapi Aalst in Belgium in 2020-21. He had 13.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for the team, AEK are hoping he could have the same kind of impact in the BCL this season.
AEK also added a couple of notable BCL names in the middle: Alexander Madsen, also known as the Thor, is a 27-year-old center who was a regular in our top plays highlights with his thunderous dunks while at VEF Riga.
He won three Latvian League titles, and was the Latvian Cup MVP in 2022, crowning a magnificent season with another Latvian-Estonian League title and a first team selection in that Final Four. He is a Finnish national team player, played for Kouvot from 2011 to 2016, then moved to USK Prague and Gran Canaria.
Akil Mitchell is the 30-year-old power forward who played for both Pinar Karsiyaka and Brose Bamberg last season. A career journeyman, Mitchell moved all over the world, from the G League to France, from New Zealand to Italy, from Israel to Turkey, Germany and now Greece.
Mitchell is a Panama national team player, appearing at the FIBA CentroBasket back in 2016, when his nation finished fourth. He was born in Charlotte, USA, and he went to the University of Virginia, where he was a part of a three-headed monster with Mike Scott and Joe Harris.
Finally, the team also added a couple of Greek players. Nikos Persidis is a 26-year-old forward who played 15 minutes per game for Lavrio Megabolt last season, getting 4.5 points per outing. He does have a Greek title to his name, he was a part of the 2020 Panathinaikos squad.
Zois Karampelas also joined AEK, but the 21-year-old will spend the first of his three seasons with the team on loan. Apollon Patras is his destination for 2022-23, but don't be surprised if the former Best Young Player of the Greek League is back in black-any-yellow before the end of the season.