AEK and San Lorenzo go for more victories
RÍO DE JANEIRO - The FIBA Intercontinental Cup, one of the most prestigious events in world basketball, returns after a brief absence in 2018, and now features a new competition format and greater expectations.
The Carioca Arena at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will host the tournament during February 15 and 17, with Greek team AEK, current Europe Basketball Champions League; the Liga de las Américas monarchs, San Lorenzo, from Argentina; the NBA G League champions, Austin Spurs; and hosts Flamengo, from Brazil.
On the 15th they’ll face each other in the first Semi-Finals. First up are San Lorenzo against AEK, starting at 6:00 PM (local game time), and followed by Flamengo and Austin. The winners will dispute the title on the 17th in the Final, and the losing teams will clash for the third place.
Here will analyze what will be the duel against current continental champions, AEK and San Lorenzo.
The Greek club arrives at Rio after showcasing a positive performance in their local and Champions leagues. In the A1 circuit, they're currently fourth in the standings with an 11-5 record, while in the European Championship they concluded Group C with 12-2 and moved on to the round of sixteen.
Coach Luca Banchi will have a complete roster with outstanding players such as Lithuanian Jonas Maciulis, Captain Dusan Sakota, and Center Vince Hunter —who leads in points and rebounds.
Also in the team will be Point Guards Malcon Griffin and Jordan Theodore, Cuban Small Forward Howard Sant-Ross, Forward Delroy James, and Shooting Guard Giannoulis Larentzakis, among others.
AEK have great aspirations of adding another trophy to their displays, where they also showcase a European Champions Cup (1968), four Greece Cups and eight titles of their local league (the last one from 2002), which are no easy achievements, especially when they have historically had to battle against powerful Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.
“We're very honored to represent Europe in this great event. Of course, all players and I are ready to live one of the best moments of our career, facing such important things. We're very motivated to test ourselves against the South and North American teams. We want to show our best basketball. Our greatest motivation is to make our fans around the world happy and try to bring home a trophy that's so important for world basketball,” commented coach Banchi.
Although AEK seem like a solid rival, there are arguments that favor San Lorenzo. The Buenos Aires team have dominated the Argentine league in the last three years, reaching the title in each one of them. They have taken their success in the international stage after conquering the 2018 DIRECTV Liga de las Américas.
The main weapon of Gonzalo García’s men are the collective work and that they're a long team. And it's been like this that they've been gathering victories in this season.
In their country's league they had only lost one encounter of twelve appearances and in the 2019 DIRECTV Liga de las Américas they qualified to the Semi-Fianls as Group C leaders, with a 3-0 record. They don't want to go unnoticed in the Intercontinental Cup.
“It’s a pretty ambitious objective for us, it’ll be very good to win this Cup. The organization wants it all,” stated García.
Locals Nicolás “Penka” Aguirre, Marcos Mata, Máximo Fjellerup and José Vildoza will be accompanied by versatile scorers Dar Tucker and Donald Sims, and will also have Jerome Meyinse, Joel Anthony and Uruguayan Matías Calfani to guard the backboard.