Staying with Group A in our preview of the 24 Euroleague teams, we focus on BC Khimki of Russia.
Introduction: Khimki return to the Euroleague after winning last season’s Eurocup in their own backyard. They have a strong roster that will no doubt make life difficult for the other sides in Group A, most notably returning Eurocup MVP Zoran Planinic plus Russian internationals Vitaly Fridzon and Sergey Monia and new Finnish acquisition Pettori Koponen.
Despite a strong roster, Khimki’s haven’t progressed past the Top 16 in their two seasons in the Euroleague. They will be looking to go far this year.
Coach: Rimas Kurtinaitis returns to Khimki having won the Eurocup for the second time with two different clubs, he also won the title in 2009 with Lietuvos Rytas. The Lithuanian enjoyed a glitterling playing career and Kurtinaitis still remains the only non-NBA player to compete in the NBA All-Star Weekend, by taking part in the three-point shootout in 1989.
He recently earned the award for the greatest Eurocup coach in history in June and will be looking to bring his continued knowledge to the Euroleague this season.
Key Player: There are a number of weapons, both offensively and defensively but new Finnish recruit Pettori Koponen will look to standout at the point guard position with a great eye for the long range shot, and great court vision, Koponen will look to make life easier for big men James Augustine and Sergey Monia.
Koponen is also an underrated defender and will look to do things on the court that the statsheet doesn’t pick-up, such as deflecting shots or pressure on-ball defence. Either way, Khmki have a guard who will give his all for his club.
Breakout Player: Alexey Zhukanenko will look for more minutes at the center spot this season with an influx of forwards, Zhukanenko could see more game time and better performances.
He was part of last season’s victorious Eurocup team but apart from his 19 point performance against VEF Riga in a regular season game, a game where Khimki were already through produced little else, this season, he will look to impress coach Kurtinaitis and get more playing time.
Biggest Euroleague Moment: The majority of BC Khimki’s success has come in the Eurocup where they were runners-up in 2008/09 and winners in 2012. They were in the Top 16 in the 2009/10 Euroleague season and will no doubt look to better that this term.