04october

2015/16 Season. The Challengers

Our web-site continues to introduce teams participating in 2015/16 VTB United League Season. In our second edition, we will preview the teams that aim beyond simply reaching the Play-offs. These challengers will hope to go further and dethrone some of the perennial favorites.

Zenit (Russia).

Last season: Reached the quarterfinals, (24W-11L).

The Expectations.
The team from St. Petersburg stayed true to their usual offseason strategy. They once again will surround the core of young Russian players with some veterans from abroad. Teams coached by Karasev usually tended to play above the public’s expectations and managed to improve year after year. This year shouldn’t be different and we expect them to give the title favorites some headache and become involved in the race for 4th or 5th place in the Regular Season.

The Leader.
Ryan Toolson. The addition of this American became one of the biggest transfer market bombs to drop this offseason. The former leader of the Spanish Unicaja has tremendous experience of playing in the Euroleague. He has to become the driving force of the team’s offence and become a formidable replacement for Walter Hodge who left during the summer. Everything we’ve seen from him in the Preseason only further proves that point, and even in limited minutes the American has looked really good on the floor. He is surely going to become the number one option on offense and the first player that the opponents will be preparing a gameplay for.

The Addition.
Janis Timma. Just as important as the addition of Toolson is the arrival to St. Petersburg of Janis Timma, who became one of the most promising young forwards on the European continent. He has added with each game and improved in virtually all the facets of his game. This athletic forward can score, rebound, pass the ball and come up with steals on defense, which makes him a dangerous weapon on the hardwood.

The Quote.
Vasiliy Karasev. Zenit’s head coach.
We have other goals this season besides particular results. Right now we’d like to see Russian players on the floor, to create basis for further growth and improvement, the future wins. We’ll have one less foreigner on the team this year, but we’ll make up for the absence with solid team play. We don’t want to finish with a worse record than we did last year, so we’re ready to bring the fight to each game.

Avtodor (Russia).
 

Last season: Reached the quarterfinals, (17W—16L).

The Expectations.
Team from Saratov exceeded many expectations in their debut season, tallying in impressive wins of CSKA and Khimki to name a couple. This level of success will be harder to duplicate this season. A lot depends on how well team leaders Jeremy Chappell and Travis Patterson will gel with the newcomers Jeffrey Brooks, Malcolm Armstead and Evgeny Kolesnikov. The lion’s share of the responsibility will lie on the shoulders of these five players. In case one or two bench players catch fire, Avtodor will be a hard team to stop, as a result they can contend for a spot in the top six.

The Leader.
Jeremy Chappell. His input to the team’s success may have been overshadowed by the play of Courtney Fortson, Kyrylo Fesenko and Mikah Downs, but he was just as useful. This season Avtodor will need to rely on his leadership, cold-blooded scoring and tight defense more than ever before.

The Addition.
Maclolm Armstead. This American guard got the call to replace the spot left vacant by Courtney Fortson. These are the big shoes to fill, but not impossible. Malcolm comes in fresh of winning a number of individual accolades in the Adriatic League, including The Best PG, The Best Foreign Player and The Defensive Player of the Year. He seemed to fit right into his role with the new team and even helped Avtodor to the win over the mighty Barcelona in a friendly game.

The Quote.
Vladimir Rodionov. Avtodor’s team president.
We’d like to move forward. Our goal is to get no lower than the 5th place in VTB United League and make the Play-offs. The same goes for the Eurocup, we need to make it to at least the 2nd round of the competition. We also have a secret chip up our sleeve, a player that we can add in mid-season.

Astana (Kazakhstan).

Last season: Reached the quarterfinals, (13W– 20L).

The Expectations.
For years Astana has fought to remain in the status of the best non-Russian team in the League, and last year the Blue and Yellow became the only non-Russian team to make the Play-offs. They will look to reach the same goal in the upcoming season, but we should keep in mind that Astana is prone to starting off slowly and getting on the roll as the season progresses. This season already looks like it might be developing like that again. Eight players from Astana are playing for the National team in the Asian Championship, including Jerry Johnson, Anton Ponomaryov and Anatoliy Kolesnikov. This has had a major impact on team’s preparation. After departure of the National team players Astana was short-handed in the exhibitions games.

The Leader.
Jerry Johnson. Over the past few seasons Jerry has been the key player, with his responsibility increasing even more last season. He averaged 30 plus minutes and had been responsible for the majority of the team’s offensive production. He proved to be all too important for the Blue and Yellow. Without him on the floor Astana did not look like the same team.

The Addition.
Kenneth Hayes. His responsibility will be taking part of the load off of Johnson’s shoulders. Hayes can play at the point guard, but he’s best attribute is his scoring ability, that was on full display during his tenures with teams in Italy and Israel. Now he faces a new challenge.

The Quote.
Valery Tikhonenko. Astana’s general manager.
Jerry Johnson and Pat Calathes are our leaders, but the success will be determined by the play of everyone on the team. We emphasize teamwork as our number one priority. Execution by players and their clear understanding of their roles are the keys to success.

Enisey (Russia).

Last season: 11th place, (10W-20L).

The Expectations.
Team from Siberia pins their hopes to the new style of play that was introduced by a determined, resolute new head coach Oleg Okulov, who demands a lot from himself and his players. This season Enisey will play disciplined, fast-paced game with a lot of emphasis being put on defense, conditioning and the depth of the rotation.

The Leader.
David Kennedy. Team’s offense will feature this American forward, who was named German League’s Best Offensive Player. He will have green light on offense and he’ll use that to his team’s advantage. Besides putting the ball through the hoop he can get his teammates involved, which will work well in Oleg Okulov’s system.

The Addition.
Delroy James. An athletic forward is considered to be a defensive specialist, and, unlike some of his fellow countrymen, isn’t afraid of a little dirty work here and there. He likes to hustle for boards, block shots, cover on defense for his teammates and is quick to double-team. His offensive arsenal isn’t as decorated, but he can hit an occasional three, drive strongly to the tin and is good at running the break. All these qualities fit what Oleg Okulov’s team will be trying to do on the floor perfectly and he should become an integral part for them.

The Quote.
Oleg Okulov. Enisey’s head coach.
I can’t tell you right now what our play should be like during the season. I choose players based on my specific vision of how our team should play. Basketball as a game is changing constantly, it’s fast and athletic. Therefore we wouldn’t want to fall behind modern trends. We also emphasize teamwork over betting on one individual to win games for us.

Krasny Oktyabr (Russia).


Last season: 12th place, (9W-21L).

The Expectations.
Before collapsing in the end of the Regular Season, a team from Volgograd looked like they were bound for Play-offs. The changes were imminent and the team’s management started at the helm by bringing in a new head coach with a history of success in the Ukrainian Superleague Kyrylo Bolshakov. Additions among the players included a powerful center Dmitry Sokolov and a pass-first point guard Donell Cooper. Nevertheless, 60-70% of all team’s shots will likely be distributed among the American trio – Tony Mitchell, Jordan Hamilton and DaJuan Johnson, each of whom will more than likely tally in 30-plus minutes per contest. While these are some quality starters, the question remains whether or not the subs can be effective.

The Leader.
Donell Cooper. Cooper became one of the most exciting players in the League last year, breaking assists records while wearing a Enisey jersey. This year playing for Krasny Oktyabr he will have plenty of options on offense. He already clicked with DaJuan Johnson, the the duo continuously sliced through opponents’ defenses in the Preseason games, and will probably continue to do so when the Regular Season comes around.

The Addition.
DaJuan Johnson. This forward should become one of the most interesting stories this season. Johnson has a variety of post moves at his disposal, runs the break really well, has nice timing on the pick and roll and is reliable from deep. The combination of his physical attributes, NBA and Turkish League experience and playing with a point guard like Cooper might add up to an MVP caliber season.

The Quote.
Kyrylo Bolshakov. Krasny Oktyabr's head coach.
I have three points of criteria by which I judge all basketball teams. First is the ability to win games and titles. Second – a quality-to-price ratio. The third is team’s attendance, how much fans love their team. If all these criteria are met then the team is close to perfection. This is what we will strive for with our squad.

Nymbruk (Czech Republic).

Last season: 14th place, (9W-21L)

The Expectations.
Nymbruk will attempt to become a surprise team in the League this season. Ronen Ginzbruk is back at the head-coaching position and he has made some changes to the roster already. Nymbruk added a number of young players and will try to run this year and play a brand of basketball most fans find attractive. Team’s additions from abroad also have been young players who are willing to progress. This approach worked for Czech National team, which surprised the world at the EuroBasket 2015. Could it work for Nymbruk in the VTB United League?

The Leader.
Jiří Welsch. Jiri will be just one of the few veterans on the team. Thus making his NBA and European championships experience even more important. He should become a locker room leader and an extension of head coach on the floor for this young and motivated basketball squad.

The Addition.
Maxime De Zeeuw. He arrives to Nymburk full of desire to realize his full potential and will try to replace team’s former leader Radoslav Rancik. This won’t be an easy task, although their playing styles are somewhat similar. Maxime is good in the pick and roll situations, has a nice post game and can hit a shot from the outside. This should be enough to grant him a starting spot on the Czech champion’s roster.

The Quote.
Ronen Ginzburg. Nymbruk’s head coach.
We signed a lot of young guys, who despite being talented, can at times be unpredictable. Fast and very quick Chasson Randle, who recently graduated from Stanford University, will play both at one and two for us. We also signed a talented young player from Cuba Howard Sant-Roos, who we hope will become this year’s surprise in the VTB League. Julian Von is a mobile and a well-coordinated center, and I’d like to mention Maxime De Zeeuw, the leader of the Belgian National team whom we faced at the EuroBasket 2015.
 

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