Our Slovenian expert and friend Matej Bergant comes up with this year’s preview of his Olimpija Ljubljana team. Matej is since recently also an official sportswriter for the Slovenian website prostimet.com
Overall record prediction: 4-6
Union Olimpija starts this season with a goal to again qualify for the next round of Euroleague – Top16. This will be a difficult task for Aleksandar Džikić’s team which was picked in the group C together with TAU Ceramica, Fenerbahce Ulker, Virtus Roma, DKV Juventut and ALBA Berlin. The goal is set, but how to reach this goal is the main question.
Coach Džikić who took over Union Olimpija ten months ago renewed his contract during the summer for additional three years. Once famous Olimpija for developing talents will now again try and pursue this path also in next seasons under coach Džikić. This year’s team is a mixture of talent and few more experienced guys who already have the knowledge how to play on such high level of basketball.
The backcourt is consistent of experienced point guard Vlado Ilievski who returned to Union Olimpija after playing in Barcelona, Roma, Virtus Bologna and Siena Montepaschi. He is will be the key player for Union Olimpija in the next years (signed two years contract), a leader on the court who will dictate the rhythm of the game and also won’t hide under pressure.
His backup will be young US guard Jonathan Wallace who came to Union Olimpija from Georgetown University. He is a sharpshooter, maybe still a bit soft for this level – coming out from collage, but considering the budget situation (always thin on money) in Union Olimpija this is the risk they have to take. The third playmaker will be 17 years old, but talented guard Mirza Sarajlija who probably won’t see many minutes during Euroleague games, but he will get his chance in Slovenian championship and Adriatic League.
Other guard positions will be filled out with talented Jaka Klobučar who is considered as one of the most talented young players in Slovenia. He is a tall shooting guard who knows how to score in many ways and will probably catch a lot of looks from various scouts during Euroleague games. Union Olimpija signed him on multi-year contract this summer and he is expected to learn this season and then have bigger role in the future. He had some troubles during off-season when he injured his finger, but he should be all right until the Euroleague start.
Sašo Ožbolt completes the backcourt. He was one of more exciting guards in Europe before the injury. He missed last three seasons due serious knee injury, but now he is making his comeback. As he says himself he needs a season to get his full confidence back. Union Olimpija is at the moment seeking for another guard. They will sign an additional player on guard position probably a week or two before the Euroleague start.
Experienced Jasmin Hukić and young talented Croatian Damjan Rudež will be the guys playing small forward position. Hukić is already a proven name through Europe known for his deadly three point shoots. Rudež could be one of the surprises of these years Euroleague. He is forward, born in 1986, not mentioning an amazing atheism for a 206cm guy who mainly plays small forward position. He will become one of better Euroleague players in few years if he stays on this path of development, as said before, could be a pleasant surprise already this season.
Marko Milič and Miha Zupan are guys for power forward position, with exception of Zupan as well playing on center position. Marko Milič doesn’t need to be represented. He is definitely one of the guys who left and are leaving an incredible mark on European basketball. Miha Zupan is the first deaf player in Euroleague history, a fighter who will give his current best every night.
Center position of Union Olimpija is covered with talented centers Mirza Begić (1985) and Vladimir Golubović (1986). Both are making progress in Olimpija, but we shouldn’t be expecting much from them in Euroleague. Both are still very inexperienced on this level, but should be able to close the paint on occasions and be solid in rebounding.
It’s hard to predict what kind of season is ahead of Olimpija, but clearly situation in the club after last financial troubles is much better. All I can say, that no team in Euroleague will have an easy job in Tivoli arena. This is a roster combined of talented youth and few experienced individuals who can surprise anyone. Union Olimpija isn’t nicknamed “a giant killer” for no reason.
Final Four participants: CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos, Montepaschi Siena, Efes Pilsen
Euroleague winner: CSKA Moscow
written by Matej Bergant