Sparks will fly in Group C with three mighty powers and one newcomer taking aim at two tickets to the Last 16. Besiktas Cola Turka, BC Khimki, Benetton Basket Tamoil and Le Havre promise some tense games to be played over the coming months, with the outcome likely up for grabs till the very end.
Besiktas of Turkey reached last season’s ULEB Cup Final Eight and looks to add to that with an impressive roster that targets big success. Khimki, which bowed out to eventual champion DKV Joventut in the Last 16 last season, has a star-studded roster that features most of last year’s studs along with some impressive new faces. Benetton is a traditional European power with a mix of seasoned Euroleague veterans and some hungry newcomers that has all the tools to leave its mark. And Le Havre, which battled through the qualifying rounds to reach the regular season, brings plenty of intensity as it makes its competition debut.
Besiktas and new head coach Hakan Demir bring back only two players that saw meaningful minutes last season – reserve playmaker Mehmet Yagmur and forward Cevher Ozer – but boast some of the most seasoned players in the history of the competition. In fact, swingman Marcus Faison, big man Mario Austin and point guard Mire Chatman rank fourth, fifth and 10th, respectively, on the competition’s career scoring charts. Austin, the 2006 ULEB Cup regular season MVP, joins Adem Oren and Ozer in the paint to give balance to a dynamic perimeter attack. Chatman and Yagmur run the show, creating opportunities for Faison, Haluk Yildrim and Muratcan Guler. Benetton looks to four players with Euroleague experience to help lead its team, including center Sandro Nicevic, among Besiktas’s stars last year. Nicevic, Rado Rancik, Judson Wallace and youngster Andrea Renzi form a strong interior trio for head coach Oktay Mahmuti. Gary Neal is the No. 1 offensive weapon, with Bobby Dixon scoring and creating for others at points guard. Swingmen Domen Lorbek and Matteo Soragna are also key contributors on this talented squad.
Khimki Moscow won its first-ever trophy last season – the Russian Cup – and will look to add the Eurocup next to it on the shelf with its impressive roster. The club made worldwide headlines over the summer by signing former Euroleague stars Carlos Delfino and Jorge Garbajosa – both medallists at the recent Summer Olympic Games. However they won’t need to carry head coach Kestutis Menzura’s team that also features former ULEB Cup final MVP Kelly McCarty, defending ULEB Cup champ Jerome Moiso, dominating center Maciej Lampe, veteran playmaker Milt Palacio and budding swingman Anton Ponkrashov, among others on a squad that is destined for big things. Le Havre joins the big boys with a hungry roster that features a number of established players. The backcourt of TJ Thompson and Fabien Causeur and big center Romain Duport return from last season’s squad that surprised many with a strong domestic campaign. Bingo Merriex and Marcus Slaughter add power inside and veterans Danny Strong and Slaven Rimac provide the experience needed to compete with the top clubs in Europe as Le Havre looks to gain respect and take a big step forward in the European scene this season. avH