We continue with Group B and look at a fresh-faced Unicaja Malaga looking to put last season behind them.
Introduction: After bearly finishing in ninth place last season domestically, Unicaja Malaga have drastically changed their squad, and they have brought in veteran coach Jasmin Repesa as they look to vastly improve domestically as well as better their 0-6 Top 16 record in last season’s Euroleague.
They have lost skillful forward Joel Freeland to the Portland Trailblazers but gained former Barcelona center Fran Vasquez, Serbian big man Kosta Perovic as well as James Gist.They have also acquired combo guard Krunoslav Simon and shooter Txemi Urtasun. So, with the team that he has, Repesa’s style of high-intensity basketball on both sides will be the theme to this team this year, no doubt as they look for an improved season this term, by their standards.
Coach: Current Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa has led his side to Eurobasket 2013 after finishing his qualifying group a perfect 8-0, that including two victories over Mike Fratello’s Ukraine squad. Repesa has also won titles across Europe, most notably in Croatia, Turkey and Italy so he comes to Malaga with a lot of credentials behind him.
The Croatian takes charge of a talented roster and one that, on paper, should be able to qualify from this group, which includes Maccabi Electra, Montepaschi Siena, Asseco Prokom, Alba Berlin and Elan Chalon. No doubt he will motivate them because the fans expect improvement on last year’s poor Top 16 performance.
Key Player: James Gist will look to rule to paint and give fans plenty of highlights along the way. The American is also very selective over which shots he takes, making him reliable offensively; last season at Fenerbahce, he averaged just over seven points in 16 Euroleague games, shooting 54 percent from the field. Domestically, he averaged nine points in 31 games, shooting 53 percent from the field. Gist was also in the Euroleague top 10 for blocked shots last season.
He will feel comfortable playing alongside Fran Vasquez inside and with Krunoslav Simon providing cover when needed, Gist will look to contribute heavily this season.
Breakout Player: After joining the team in 2002 and being loaned out until now, Txemi Urtasun will look to make a name for himself in his first Euroleague season. A nippy guard who can shoot the ball well and get to the basket at will. Offensively, Urtasun is a gifted all-round player and will look to average big numbers in his debut Euroleague season.
Biggest Euroleague Moment: For such a well established basketball club, Euroleague moments are few and far between for this Spanish side. Since they were founded in 1977, Unicaja Malaga have only won three trophies, their most successul year coming in the 2005/06 season where they won the National Cup and League.