|The reigning ULEB Cup champion opens the 2008-09 Euroleague season at home, as DKV Joventut welcomes Slovenian powerhouse Union Olimpija on Thursday at 20:45 CET. Both teams already faced each other in the 2006-07 Euroleague season - which also was Joventut's first appearance in Europe's top competition in 15 years - and Olimpija registered a 82-86 win in Badalona. Joventut will be without superstar guard Ricky Rubio, out with a severe hand injury. Without Rubio around, expect playmaker Demond Mallet and combo guard Pau Ribas to play a major role in the beginning of the season. Mallet is the only pure playmaker in the team, so expect Olimpija to put pressure on him. Vlado Ilievski, back in Ljubljana this season, will try to attack Mallet with his outstanding driving skills while Jonathan Wallace is set to provide court sense and a high game rhythm. Olimpija has proven scorers in Tyler Crawford and Saso Ozbolt, back in shape after several years battling with injuries. Both players will have also the tough mission to slow Bracey Wright, the top gun in Joventut's backcourt this season. Wright is able to create his own shot and slowing him will be one of the biggest key to the game for Olimpija. Joventut is also deep a small forward with Simas Jasaitis, Luka Bogdanovic and Ferran Laviñam who has underwent physical problems lately. Jasaitis, in his fourth Euroleague team in as many years, will have an interesting matchup against experienced forward Jasmin Hukic, who is ready to provide unlimited range and intensity at both ends. Damjan Rudez is set to make his Euroleague debut as one of the best young players in the continent. The battle in the paint will be the biggest key to the game, as both teams have deep frontcourt ready to battle each other. Pops Mensah-Bonsu has been unstoppable in the beginning of the season, pleasing all Joventut fans with his athleticism and outstanding dunks. Olimpija has its heart and soul in Marko Milic, ready to offer determination, intensity, power and experience. Milic will have plenty of help around, as Mirza Begic is expected to provide extra help with a Euroleague year of experience on his back, while Vladimir Golubovic is ready to show he belongs to this level. Joventut has shot blocking ace Edu Hernandez-Sonseca, a mobile big man with soft touch, just as power forward Jan Jagla. Henk Norel rounds the Joventut frontcourt providing size and talent off the bench, just as Dejan Radojevic does for Olimpija. If Joventut plays its brand of basketball - pressure, high game rhythm and showtime - it is the favourite to win the game. Olimpija will have a chance if it gets Milic and Hukic involved while getting Mallet into foul trouble. Expect nothing but a top-quality game in Badalona.
- Simas Jasaitis enters the season needing only 3 more three-pointers to reach 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Team captain Marko Milic is the only active player in the Euroleague this season to have scored in double figures in the first-ever Euroleague Basketball game. Milic scored 10 points for Real Madrid in a 75-73 win over Olympiacos on October 16, 2000.
- As many as seven players – Vladimir Golubovic, Jaka Klobucar, Dejan Radonevic, Damian Rudez, Mirza Sarajlija, Matic Sirnik and Jonathan Wallace – could make their Euroleague debut in Week 1 at DKV Joventut.
- Saso Ozbolt has played in only two Euroleague games in the past three seasons because of knee injuries.
- The best individual performance in team captain Marko Milic’s impressive Euroleague career came against his Week 1 opponent, DKV Joventut, in December 2006. Milic recorded 24 points and 15 rebounds – both career-highs – in just 30 minutes of a narrow home loss.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008