…and today it seems the phenomenon has spread to Spain’s basketball world as well: Check out Asefa Estudiantes’ Germán Gabriel, Jaime Fernández, Kyle Kuric, Daniel Clark, Edgar Vicedo and Jayson Granger plus a whole gaggle of would-be Harlemites getting down.
Right, then, European basketball squads: Who’s got next?
Spain’s ACB tipped off action last night, opening the season with Asefa Estudiantes hosting Real Madrid in front of 13,000 at Palacio De Deportes Comunidad De Madrid. The Euroleaguers emerged in “la mejor forma posible,” 84-79, after facing a knotted-up first quarter and a surprising five-point first-half deficit.
Looking for redemption after a 34-point blowout loss to FC Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, Real Madrid was back in form last night, even if they couldn’t stop Los Estudiantes’ outside shooting in the first half.
Ball in Europe contributor Francesco Cappelletti contributes the second part of his look at the ACB with briefs on a dozen teams who won’t exactly compete for the Spanish league title, but certainly compare with most European competition. Part one can be read by clicking here.
One step behind. These ACB teams aren’t worthy of a title drive; despite this, their value is surely greater than other European mid-level teams. With at least seven or eight really good players apiece, they’re readier to exploit every possibility than richer and more ambitious clubs can. For example, Gran Canaria 2014 is coming off a monster season in which it finished the regular season in sixth place (ahead of Valencia) and was eliminated by Unicaja Malaga in the quarterfinals. Gran Canaria is now without Carl English, Mario Fernandez and Joel Freeland, who are testing themselves in top teams; however, the newly arrived Jaycee Carroll from Teramo and Will McDonald are noticeable names for a non-Euroleague team, and they fit perfectly into this team’s scheme thanks to men very similar to them. The skeleton is nearly the same as last year: Joshua Fisher and Marcus Norris comprise a duo that provides veteran attitude and intangibles, while Melvin Sanders, Sitapha Savane and James Augustine carry a strong presence on both ends of the floor.
For today’s preview on Unicaja Malaga, we are proud to have among us a writer from one of the most impressive websites about European basketball, Daniel Barranquero of acb.com. Daniel is based in Malaga and gives us his unique inside view on the regular Euroleague participant.
Overall record prediction: 6-4
It’s not common practice to talk about revolution in a team which only has bought four players and a coach. But this Unicaja is a new team. Same players, same supporters, same goals but a different style: Aito style. Aito García Reneses, the Spanish National Team head coach in the last Olympic Games, left the squad after winning the silver medal in Beijing and signed a three -year deal with Unicaja.
García Reneses has a large list of accomplishments in his 35-year career, but he still has a strong and melancholy desire. He yearns for the Euroleague title. The coach has reached the Final Four six times, but he never fulfilled his dream of raising the European trophy. In Malaga, Aito will have an ambitious team which plays its eighth Euroleague in a row and wants to grow in Europe. For this reason, Unicaja has shaped a powerful roster to be a solid contender in the best competition of the continent.
Unicaja has signed Omar Cook with the hope that the player of the Montenegro NT would be a nice complimentary, at least better than Bojan Popovic, to Carlos Cabezas. The Malaga-born point guard desires to convince his new coach that it was a mistake not to call him for the Olympic Games.
The backcourt new leader may be Thomas Kelati, a great addition who dazzled in ULEB Cup last year playing with PGE Turow. The only professional basketball player with Eritrean roots, promises defense and points and would make a great duo with Berni Rodríguez, but the international player suffers an ankle injury and faces now about three months of recovery. His replacement is the explosive Joseph Gomis, the second best scorer in ACB last season. Besides, the long-time captain of Spain Carlos Jimenez, who retired from his national team last summer, and the Czech Jiri Welsch, who needs to improve his performance in Unicaja, also guarantee defense and teamwork.
Marcus Haislip is expected to have a prominent role in the frontcourt. The dynamic power forward of Malaga is freakishly athletic, has amazed Europe with his dunks and scores easily… but he has not exploded, he´s not yet the star he was supposed to be. German Gabriel, a great promise of the “Golden Boys Generation”, is now one of the best three-point specialists of the team but he´s maybe too soft and weak on defense to play a lot of minutes with Aíto. However, the two centers of Unicaja, Robert Archibald and Boniface Ndong, assure consistency, strength and rebounds. Robert is a well-known player for Garcia Reneses (they were together in Badalona) and ‘Boni’ proved last season that he can be one of the most outstanding centers in Spain and Europe. Moreover, the promising Brazilian Vitor Faverani will try to take advantage of his opportunities.
Unicaja has the mark of Aíto García Reneses, the substitute of the successful Sergio Scariolo. The team has been the only unbeaten in the ACB preseason and its two first games in the league were wonderful, beating Real Madrid and Cajasol and playing at high level. The main goal of the squad is to leave the irregularity behind. In fact, in these last years, European fans who partipate in basketball forums talked sarcastically about “Unicajism” (“Unicajian Performance Fluctuation Syndrome: UPFS”) to describe the irregularty of team, a box of surprises capable of the best and the worst.
In short, with an accessible group, Top-16 is an obligation for Unicaja; Final Four, a possibility. The title? Just a dream, by now…
Final Four participants: Montepaschi Siena, CSKA Moscow, Regal FC Barcelona, Olympiacos