Galatasaray Cafe Crown will look to start off Group A action by defending its home turf in Istanbul against the visiting BC Azovmash Mariupol on the opening day of the 2009-10 Eurocup. The hosts should have their hands full with the Ukrainian champs, but some new blood will make Galastaray one of the most interesting teams to watch early in the regular season. Last season’s Turkish league semi-finalists have reinforced their front line with two bangers with Eurocup experience. Center Radoslav Rancik and forward Mike Wilkinson join the pair of returning young centers, Cemal Nalga and Eren Beyaz. Rancik played with Benetton in last year’s Eurocup, scoring 9.5 points per outing, but his best showing in the competition came in 2007-08 when he averaged more than 19 points for the Czech champs CEZ Basketball Nymburk. Wilkinson enters with three straight years of Eurocup play for Aris Thessaloniki and BC Khimki under his belt. To complement that new muscle, Galatasaray head coach Okan Cevik can also call on the added sharp-shooting of Simas Jasaitis, a former champion of the competition, with Lietuvos Rytas in 2005. The forward has since played for some of top clubs in Europe - Maccabi, Tau Cermanica and DKV Joventut - and his quick release is deadly from deep. There is speed in the mix, too, in the person of newcomer Darius Washington, who scored 10.6 points for PAOK in last season’s Eurocup. Washington will share the backcourt with third-year Galastaray veteran Murat Kaya. BC Azovmash Mariupol has won six of the last seven Ukrainian League titles, but this year’s team brings in a number of young players who are debuting for the first time with the senior squad after passing up through Azovmash’s youth system. To balance out its inexperience, Azovmash will turn to a handful of veterans to lead the way. Former Euroleague starter Fred House, a non-stop defender, was the team's latest addition it the backcourt, where he joins veterans Yevgeniy Podorvannyy and Oleksandr Skutyelnik. Another scoring threat, Simonas Serapinas, holds down another perimeter position, while Erik Daniels will be relied on to man the paint. Serapinas last year helped Azovmash reach the Eurocup elimination rounds. The team is anchored by center Hasan Rizvic, who averaged almost 7 points in last season’s Eurocup, and former ULEB Cup winner Rolandas Jarutis, also in his second year with the club. He took home the ULEB Cup trophy on the same 2005 Lietuvos Rytas team as Jasaitis. With a six-game season ahead in an unpredictable group, all the experience both teams can muster will be needed for one of them to start the Eurocup on a winning note.
REFEREES: Fabio Facchini, Marcin Kowalski, Aleksandar Milojevic
Monday, November 23, 2009