French champion LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne will play in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague after a decade away and to celebrate its return to the top level the club reinforced its roster with several key players. World-class scorer Edwin Jackson returns to his boyhood club where he will team with his former French national teammate, point guard Antoine Diot. A second playmaker, Jordan Taylor, arrives from another French club, Limoges. Sharpshooter Rihards Lomazs left his native Latvia to test his skills in the EuroLeague. Big men Ismael Bako and Tonye Jekiri give the team more weapons in what was an already deep frontcourt.
ASVEL coach Zvezdan Mitrovic has many options in his backcourt. Injuries have derailed Antoine Diot’s career at times, but when healthy he has been a top-class playmaker. He is a former European champion, a EuroCup champion and brings three seasons of EuroLeague experience with him too. Jordan Taylor has played for top teams in five different European countries and his classic point guard skills have made him a welcome addition at every stop. Taylor is also a hound on defense. Teenager Theo Maledon is one of the best prospects his age in the game. He started most of the team’s EuroCup last season and with his athletic frame, bursts of speed, pesky defense and effective jump shot, he has been able to handle every challenge that has come his way. Learning from Diot and Taylor should only help Maledon get better. Edwin Jackson and Rihards Lomazs are the team’s go-to scoring weapons at the shooting guard spot. Both prefer to fire it up from downtown and are good passers, too. Jackson has played in the EuroLeague in four of the past five seasons, so his experience and leadership should help the team greatly. Small forward Charles Kahudi enters his fifth season with ASVEL, where his winning attitude has helped put the club on the right path. David Lighty, 31, signed a three-year extension earlier this summer to remain an ASVEL reference. The two of them help set the tone at the club by putting the team first and sacrificing individual stats for others. While Lighty is more of a creator and Kahudi a better shooter, both are experienced, smart players and strong defenders.
The six men who make up the ASVEL frontline bring a mix of size, speed, physicality, outside shooting and experience, which combined will allow the team to feature many different looks. Amine Noua is the classic modern big man; he is a great outside shooter who boasts length and athleticism. Livio Jean-Charles is a physical inside force and a top-notch offensive rebounder, who could also fill in as an undersized center. A product of the ASVEL youth system, Charles Galliou is a high-energy player who will try to impact games off the bench. Ismael Bako was named to the Basketball Champions League’s Star Lineup last season. He is an effective inside scorer, tough rebounder and great shot-blocker. Adreian Payne joined ASVEL in March of last season and helped the club win the French double. His combination of power and outside shooting is difficult for opponents to match up with. The tallest player of the bunch is Tonye Jekiri, who was one of the best rebounders in the Turkish League last season. With so much quality, ASVEL can be sure that its big men will always be fresh, which makes each of them even more dangerous.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Few players his age in professional basketball will have the chances and responsibility that Theo Maledon will this season. The 18-year-old combo-guard can play as a lead point guard or off the ball and can score from either spot. He is also blessed with the speed and size to defend point and shooting guards. Thanks to his time training alongside veterans like David Lighty, John Roberson, DeMarcus Nelson and Mantas Kalnietis in recent years, Maledon has gained valuable experience and learned how to become a strong pick-and-roll player and to play at different speeds. It appears that the sky is the limit for Maledon, who will have a big role for ASVEL this season as he continues to grow as a man and player with unlimited potential.
ASVEL will play with an interesting squad in its EuroLeague return. The club has made sure to have experienced players and youngsters with bright futures, home-grown talents and reinforcements from abroad, a mix of speed, size, strength, athleticism, shooting ability and basketball IQ. The coaching staff can get creative with its lineups and the opposition will have to prepare accordingly. ASVEL is a team that should not be underestimated and while its initial goals in this first season back at the premier level may not be to go all the way, there is no telling just how good ASVEL will be when everything comes together.