With the new Euroleague season nearing, BallinEurope is once more break down each of the teams individually on 16 consecutive days in the run up to tip off. As with last season, we’re going in reverse order from the opening round of games. Today we look at Valencia who are looking to follow up a fantastic 2016-17 season by making a statement in Euroleague. Rather than a single play, Emmet Ryan looks at three guys with different points to prove
Take them for what they are and where they have been. One is a veteran who has done it all but showed he was still a big factor in the ACB finals last June. Another has battled back from horrendous injury to show he can still go but wants to prove it on the big stage. The third, a NBA washout who has been flat out of luck in Europe.
Romain Sato became only the second African who hadn’t taken a European passport to win Euroleague in 2011. When that Panathinaikos side delivered a treble-winning season, Sato was a key guy on a roster that just kicked ass. Time is supposed to catch up with us all but, at 36, there he was in June playing like a heart with legs as Valencia took a first ever Spanish title. Now he’s back in Euroleague after a two year break, looking to show he is still what we knew he was.
Sam Van Rossom couldn’t catch a break health wise but he always had that spark. We saw it with Belgium in EuroBasket, albeit in an ultimately disappointing campaign. Had the wounds not hit the way they have over his career, a bigger club might have come in for him by now. Instead he has stayed loyal to Valencia, as the club has to him, and together they got the reward they craved most this past summer.
Then there is Tibor Pleiss. Everything was promising until he went to Barcelona. Then he became an awfully expensive bench option who didn’t complement Ante Tomic well. Still, the Utah Jazz brought him over but it was a one and done season before he got back to Euroleague via Galatasaray. The campaign was good for his confidence but little else. Gala weren’t built to compete, never mind win. He’s landed at an ambitious side now with the underdog mentality that suits a guy needing to battle back.
Three guys, three radically different motivations, but all capable of exciting and carrying giant chips on their shoulders. That’s going to be worth watching.
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Coach: Txus Vidorreta
Arena: Fuente de San Luis, 8,500
Last season in Eurocup: 13-1 (7-1 regular season/6-0 Top 16), lost finals
Last season in ACB: 23-9, won finals
Who’s new? Alberto Abalde (Joventut), Aaron Doornekamp (Tenerife), Erick Green (Olympiacos), Tryggvi Hlinason (Thor AK), Andres Rico (Gipuzkoa), Latavious Williams (Unics)
Who’s gone? Mike Tobey (Tenerife), Vyacheslav Kravstov (Eskisehir), Pierre Oriola (Barcelona), Luke Sikma (Alba Berlin)
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The roster moves have been interesting and show Valencia can, largely, retain its guys right now while also being able to get creative in the market. Oriola is certainly a loss but, on the whole, this roster looks a step up from the one that lifted the Spanish title. The moves are a mix of guys who will expect to feature, solid role players, reclamation projects, and young prospects.
Of the latter group, Hlinason unfortunately won’t be featuring as he is going on loan but the Icelandic youngster is a fascinating prospect. If Luka Doncic is the best young player to come out of Europe in a long while, Hlinason holds a similar claim on most interesting considering his road to where he is now. Abalde is definitely one to watch as he promises to have the game to find a way to become a serious contributor for Valencia sooner rather than later.
Fearless prediction: 6th. Yup, I really like this line-up and we’ve seen Valencia knows how to take care of business in regular season play during the club’s two years away from Euroleague. While I’m not likely to be all that hot on this team in the post-season, I am really confident this is the right type of roster to find a way to get there.
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