FIBA Europe Cup: Group C preview
MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) - While most of the FIBA Europe Cup groups consist of four teams in the Regular Season, Group C will be one of three that will be a three-team race for places in the Second Round.
Headlined by two returning teams from the inaugural edition of the competition, Sodertalje Kings (SWE) and Belfius Mons-Hainaut (BEL), the group also includes Telekom Baskets Bonn (GER), one of FIBA Europe Cup’s big-name additions this summer.
Can Sodertalje Kings make the next step?
Staying true to its name, Sodertalje Kings kept the Swedish Basketligan crown last season and extended their reign for another year by picking up their fourth consecutive Swedish Championship title.
Not meeting a worthy challenger along the way, Vedran Bosnic’s side dominated the field in the Play-Offs and swept Norrkoping Dolphins 4-0 in the gold-medal series.
Having enjoyed an excellent season on the home front, Sodertalje also reached the Round of 32 in the FIBA Europe Cup last season, but a tough group prevented the team from progressing to further in the knock-out stages.
Although there was quite a lot of roster turnaround over the summer, the Kings managed to keep star forward Toni Bizaca on board. The big Croat was the competition’s third-leading scorer last year, averaging 19 points per game.
The Swedish champs could not get past the Basketball Champions League (BCL) Qualification Round tie against Finnish neighbours Kataja Basket, but last season’s performance has set the bar pretty high.
However, additions of Sweden international Thomas Kalemba-Massamba and Estonian national team member Tanel Kurbas have laid a solid foundation for the season to come.
Mons-Hainaut want to move past last year's heart-break
Belfius Mons-Hainaut had to bow out of the FIBA Europe Cup in heart-breaking fashion last season, but the new season gives the Belgian side a chance of redemption after falling one victory short of qualifying for the Round of 16 last time around.
The circumstances of how the season ended in the Belgian Basketball League were much less dramatic, with Mons-Hainaut being eliminated by Okapi Aalstar already in the Quarter-Finals after finishing sixth in the Regular Season.
Coach Yves Defraigne has kept some of last season’s core, including the likes of Justin Cage, Amaury Gorgemans, Lionel Bosco and Idris Lasisi who all served important roles on the team.
However, there were a considerable number of roster changes over the summer, with the club signing a one-time Croatia international Ante Delas, 2.13m Romanian Alexandru Olah and American guard Tre Demps, all of whom were noticeable in the first couple of rounds of domestic action.
Mons-Hainaut got off to a somewhat bittersweet start in the Belgian Basketball League this season, defeating defending champions Telenet Oostende in the first week, but then losing two close games against other opponents.
Telekom Baskets Bonn ready to make FIBA Europe Cup debut
Telekom Baskets Bonn will have quite big shoes to fill in their debut in the FIBA Europe Cup, replacing last year’s champions Fraport Skyliners as the lone German team in the competition this season.
Last season was a disappointing one for the club in the German Bundesliga, with Bonn only finishing 11th in the Regular Season and missing the Play-Offs for the first time since 2010-11.
Needless to say, Telekom Baskets have their sights set on a much-needed bounce back this year.
The club had to go through a coaching change before the season, bringing in Predrag Krunic after Croatian specialist Silvano Poropat was diagnosed with a serious long-term illness and could not continue.
The management of the team rebuilt the roster completely, bringing in 10 new players, including a short-term deal with Latvia international Ojars Silins after one of their newcomers Ken Horton got injured.
Although the new squad might need some extra time to gel, Telekom Baskets will undoubtedly be on the shortlist of teams that are capable of going all the way in the FIBA Europe Cup this season.