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April 24, 2014
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2009-10 Team Focus: Maroussi BC
October 16, 2009
We are very excited that our team finally made the Euroleague groups after so many years of hard work. It was something we deserved after going through tough preliminary rounds. We are a Cinderella, but we believe in ourselves and our ability to improve through competition. It's also an honor as well as a challenge to be the first coach to lead this team into the Euroleague.
We tried to keep the backbone of last year's team, mixing them with new and talented players who meet our philosophy. Our main principle is team effort on both offense and defense. We do not depend on one star player, but on teamwork.
Our club will face teams with greater experience: CSKA and Maccabi have been European champions, Caja Laboral many times in the Final Four, while Roma and Olimpija have many years in the competition. Meeting their standards requires that Maroussi be the best we can be. There will be great games guaranteed by high-level competition between great players and clever coaches. The fans will appreciate this and I hope the ride will be exciting.
The 24th and final team to qualify for the 2009-10 Euroleague Regular season, Maroussi BC of Greece, showed it was ready for the big time with impressive victories in two pairs of qualifying rounds series. Maroussi is a steadily growing club, almost always in the mix for semifinals in the Greek League, and has a fair amount of experience for a Euroleague rookie team as five players have played in the competition before. An added bonus, of course, is that head coach Georgios Bartzokas and his men are now battle-tested after surviving the qualifying rounds. They knocked out Alba Berlin, a Top 16 club last year, as well as fellow-Greek club Aris BSA. Marrousi brings a roster with a healthy blend of styles and personalities to the Euroleague regular season. Several of the players who led the team to finish third in Greece last season are back, including floor general Billy Keys, scorer Georgios Diamantopoulos, forward Kostas Kaimakoglou and center Dimitrios Mavroeidis. To that core the club has added defensive ace Michalis Pelekanos, playmakers Jamon Lucas and Marios Batis, and big men Jared Homan, Stephen Arigbabu and Levon Kendall. The last three round out a frontcourt featuring five men who are at least 2.08 meters tall. With size, speed, depth, experience and talent, Maroussi has all the ingredients needed to make its Euroleague debut something to remember.
Although Maroussi had different scoring leaders in all four qualifying rounds games, Keys has proven to be the squad's top scoring threat. A veteran point guard, Keys has a wicked three-point shot, good court vision and provides stand out defense. He teams with Lucas at the other starting guard, a quick and fearless playmaker who gets to the basket to create good looks for himself and teammates. Coming off the bench for instant offense is Diamantopoulos, a former Greek League scoring champ and a double-digit scorer for Olympiacos in the Euroleague several seasons ago. On the wing, Pelekanos, entering his seventh Euroleague campaign with his fifth team, may be best known as a defensive ace, but is also a very good jump shooter. After going 4 for 4 from downtown in the second half with the pressure on in the game that got Maroussi to the Euroleague, backup point guard Batis proved he is ready for the pressure that comes with a spot in the Euroleague. Playmaker Fanis Koumpouras adds some extra depth at that spot, while teenage prospect Epameinodas Papantoniou will gain experience from the bench this year.
Kaimakoglou begins his sixth season in a Maroussi uniform having established himself as a true inside-outside option. Kaimakoglou, who is able to play both forward spots, is a budding star after cracking the Greek national squad and winning a bronze medal at EuroBasket 2009. Big man Mavroeidis is a strong and aggressive player who is effective at both ends of the floor. Homan is a rugged center and a strong rebounder, but also has a nice array of low post moves. Kendall is a more active center and one of the team's best shot-blockers. Pat Calathes, beginning his second season at the club and in Europe, has the size of a center, but the speed and shot to play small forward. Those skills could see him blossom into a legitimate scoring option this season. Arigbabu is a seasoned veteran who returns to the Euroleague after a decade-long absence. His know-how could be a valuable asset in big games. All told, the Maroussi frontcourt rotation may not have the eye-popping names as other teams, but its combined size and depth give it the potential to match any other team inside. And when that happens, Bartzokas knows that Maroussi could make some noise despite being a Euroleague newcomer.
MICHALIS PELEKANOS, GUARD
If any team that could use the varied experience of a Euroleague veteran entering his prime, it's Maroussi BC, which fortunately has just such a player in swingman Michalis Pelekanos. Despite seeing limited playing time in each of the last two seasons with Real Madrid and Olympiacos, Pelekanos has become a key piece for Maroussi - and one of the main reasons why his team reached the Euroleague regular season through the Qualifying Rounds.
Athletic, ambitious and knowledgeable, Pelekanos is one of the best defensive guards in European basketball, with a great feel for steals. His quickness, mobility and aggressiveness turn him into an elite on-the-ball defender, but Pelekanos is also a good all-around scorer with great driving skills and a decent long-range shot.
At age 28, Pelekanos has made Maroussi his fifth Euroleague team, following Peristeri, AEK, Madrid and Olympiacos. However, it was in at another Greek team, Panellinios, that Pelekanos exploded as a double-digit scorer and the Greek League's second-best stealer back in the 2006-07 season. His outstanding season allowed him to make it to the Greek national team, with whom he reached the EuroBasket 2007 semifinals, and to sign a multi-year deal with Madrid. Despite his work ethic and versatility, Pelekanos did not see much playing time in the Spanish capital and joined Olympiacos in summer 2008.
Pelekanos did not have many chances in a star-flooded team like the Reds, but he's found a new home in nearby Maroussi. There, Pelekanos can be expected to steady a Euroleague newcomer with his defense and improved shooting selection, which had been his main question mark in the past. Pelekanos is set for what could be his Euroleague breakout season.
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