Entering the new season with a revamped roster, Euroleague Basketball giant and perennial Final Four challenger Benetton Treviso plans to stand tall again with the continent's best teams. After missing last season's Quarterfinal Playoffs in a tiebreak, then winning the Italian League title in its first season under head coach David Blatt, Benetton has seen extensive roster transition over the summer while developing, as always, a wealth of young talent. Among the notable arrivals come a pair of forwards, young buck Angelo Gigli and one of last season's Euroleague surprises, Spencer Nelson. The return of veteran center Joey Beard will solidify the frontcourt, while perimeter newcomers Terrell Lyday, Richie Frahm and Nick George mix experience and youth. Benetton welcomes all of them to an established core made up of guards Nikos Zisis and Marco Mordente, plus forwards Matteo Soragna and Marcus Goree. Of course, youngsters like center Gino Cuccarolo can always explode into stardom at any moment, another reason that Benetton is followed by fans well beyond Treviso every season.
In its backcourt, Benetton dealt with the departure of last year's top Euroleague scorer, Drew Nicholas, by calling on Lyday and Frahm. Lyday led his only previous Euroleague team, Adecco Asvel, in scoring, assists and steals just two seasons ago, so he knows what it takes. Frahm arrives for his first European season with a loaded shooting hand from long distance that should help keep defenses honest. Those two will serve to boost an already accomplished trio of guards, led by Zisis, one of Europe's most experienced young players.
|Benetton Treviso |
Zisis might begin the new season injured, but last year proved capable of overcoming such obstacles. In the meantime, Mordente and Santangelo can cover the point with a blend of dependability and excitement. The same and more can be said for Soragna, who can switch effectively between all perimeter positions, leaving space at times for George, a rookie, to get his rhythm at small forward. Luca Sottano also has enough experience now to help wherever he is needed.
Underneath, Benetton had another pair of big shoes to fill, those of phenom Andrea Bargnani, but plenty of talents are ready to do so. Goree will once again be the key, bringing enough versatility to fill in any necessity - be it scoring, rebounding, defense, shot-blocking or passing - that Benetton requires on a given night. He'll get help in all those categories, but especially on the boards, from Nelson, who took people by surprise with his rookie exploits last season at Bamberg, when he finished fourth among Euroleague regular season rebounders. Gigli, meanwhile, promises both size and maturity beyond his 23 years. His ability to play with few mistakes and a lot of heart should make him an impact player in his first Euroleague season. The always-impressive teenagers at Benetton feature still-growing Cuccarolo, now 2.19 meters, as well as forward Cesare Monzardo and big guard Roberto Rullo. Any or all could also get their chances to debut this season.
Benetton is sure to be competitive as always, with equal parts aggressiveness and control in its game. Blatt will guarantee those qualities at a minimum. In his second year in Treviso, with an Italian title already won, Blatt brings both the capability and the confidence to try whatever he thinks is right to keep Benetton in the upper echelon of great Euroleague clubs.