Introduction: Cantu (please allow me to call them by their name, instead of sticking the name of a random sponsor in front) has a clear target this year: to reach, if not surpass, the achievement of Euroleague 2011/12 season.
Having signed a talented American duo of unknown, but nevertheless promising point guard, Jerry Smith and the uprising and versatile big man Alex Tyus who comes off a great stint in Israel. Adding the experience and poise of Pietro Aradori it is clear the Italian outsiders will be scoring with more ease this time around.
Their last season stars Vladimir Micov and Georgi Shermadini might have left for those golden contracts, but make no mistake, the corner stone of the playing philosophy of this team will remain its dedicated and pressing defense, as implemented by the ingenious Andrea Trinchieri. So watch out Group A.
Coach: I think Andrea Trinchieri has earned the respect of the biggest majority of Euroleague experts and fans alike during last season. And he continued earning their respect in the pre-season, achieving a seemingly difficult qualification to the first Group stage of Euroleague 2012/13 season. With his masterful tactical and in-game decisions and coaching he has maximised his team's possibilities, while forcing the opponents spit blood for every single point they score, especially in Italy.
Of course by now all opponent coaches will be better prepared for his tricks, but I'm sure he has plenty of aces in his sleeve to deliver more upsets.
Key Player: The key player for the Italian side could be Alex Tyus. The young American forward might be relatively new to the European basketball, but he has testified his credentials in Israel. His ability to play both the inside and outside game will create mismatches for his opponents and disrupt the defensive rotations of the opponents.
His athleticism won't go unnoticed, I'm sure he will soon follow in the footsteps of Shermadini.
Breakout Player: I'm going out on a limb here, but I think Jerry Smith will be an interesting case to keep an eye on. In his first professional basketball season he has impressed everyone with his performance during the Euroleague qualifying tournament. Scoring, looking to pass and create and above all taking care of the ball, one can not distinguish many weakness in his game.
One could be his size, but small-ball Euroleague will help him to get out the sticky situations quite often.
Biggest Euroleague Moment: There is little, if any, doubt that the best moments of Cantu belong well in the past, exactly thirty years in the past to be exact. That's when the club reached it's nadir winning a rare back-to-back Euroleague titles in 1982 and 1983. Another 8 Eurocups trophies shouldn't be taken lightly either.
One thing is for sure, the basketball culture and thirst is still there, it just needs hard work, some money and a bit of spark and who knows?