Dec 30, 2010 by Print
Union Olimpija
Union Olimpija comes into the Top 16 as the pleasant surprise of the season and a team that many will be curious to see if it can keep up its excellent form when the pressure heats up in the later stages. So far everything has worked out for head coach Jure Zdovc’s squad, which has avoided significant injuries to its key players, seen promising talents step forward and gotten great play from its veterans in addition to tremendous support from its loyal fanbase at the new Stozice Arena. Floor general Vlado Ilievski (11.3 ppg, 4.1 apg., 2 spg.), who missed all but one Euroleague game last season, has fueled the team’s success from the backcourt, while Saso Ozbolt (9.1 ppg., 1.7 spg.) has shown he can carry the scoring load when needed. The athletic Kenny Gregory (13.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg.) and sweet-shooting Damir Markota (8 ppg.) form a versatile duo at forward, with veteran Goran Jagodnik (11.2 ppg.), the Sportingbet October MVP, providing a lift off the bench. Inside Olimpija has benefited from a breakout season from Pinkney (14.4 ppg.) and big Giorgi Shermadini has been a very effective reserve. Olimpija’s great showing so far has only raised the bar of expectations for the team and everyone will be eager to see how that works out in the Top 16.
Vlado Ilievski - Union Olimpija
Vlado Ilievski

Top 16 Teams:
  • Key win: A Week 9 victory over CSKA Moscow made a big difference in how the regular season will be looked upon regarding Olimpija. That result not only knocked the Russian champs out, sealed a perfect regular-season record at home, ensured a winning record as well and kept the race for first place in Group D until Week 10, but could also go down as a changing of the guard with the hosts stifling CSKA’s star players while Olimpija’s Ozbolt and Markota registered Euroleague career highs.
  • Key stat: No team spent more time on the floor this season that Union Olimpija. The team total of 2,100 minutes played reflects four overtime periods in three games. And Olimpija won two of them. The effort put forth in those games and the fact that all six of the team’s wins came by fewer than 10 points shows this team never lays down and that it will give everything in the spirit of winning.
  • Key play: Ilievski’s jumper off a broken play to force overtime against Panathinaikos in Week 3 was a turning point in the club’s season. Olimpija proceeded to win the game and turn Stozice Arena into a fortress. However if the ball had not bounced to Ilievski and he did not calmly sink the shot, who knows where the negative momentum might have dragged Olimpija to.
  • Key contributor: A look at the production from Olimpija’s top players this season reveals several maximizing their talent, but none more than Kevinn Pinkney, a Euroleague rookie who burst onto the scene to lead the team in scoring. A versatile and mobile big man who did not average double figures in points in the Eurocup last season, Pinkney has been overly efficient and the difference-maker several victories.
  • Key intangible: Stozice Arena. Although much has changed at Olimpija in recent seasons, nothing has been bigger than the move to the state-of-the-art arena that has vaulted the club forward. The fans’ excitement and the rock atmosphere at Stozice has been apparent every time Olimpija took the floor this season and a homecourt advantage like that could make a major difference in the Top 16 too.