The Khimki Moscow Region roster underwent some significant changes over the summer with several stars of the 2015 EuroCup championship-winning squad moving on, but Coach Dusko Ivanovic’s squad will not be starved for talent in any way. Among the newcomers is point guard EJ Rowland, who has scored the most points and dished the third-most assists of any player in the competition over the past four seasons. Justin Carter and Nobel Boungou-Colo comprise an athletic small forward duo with EuroLeague and EuroCup experience. There is more experience coming to the team from forward Valeriy Likhodey, who is a former EuroCup champion, and guard Viacheslav Zaytsev, who returns to his boyhood club. Rounding out the list of new faces is big man Perry Jones, who will make his European debut in a Khimki uniform.
Rowland partners with Alexey Shved to give Khimki a dangerous backcourt duo. Both players can pass, shoot and drive at a high level and together may make each other even better. Carter can play either wing spot, while Boungou-Colo is more likely to stay at small forward, but both contribute rebounds and defense alongside exciting slams and three-point accuracy. Egor Vyaltsev is among the best three-point shooters in competition history and Zaytsev, who played a key role for Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd last season, should see significant playing time in the guard rotation too. Homegrown talent Stanislav Ilnitskiy adds more depth on the wings.
Forwards Sergey Monya and Likhodey are both ideal options to space the floor on offense who can also bang and rebound on the defensive end. How quickly Jones adapts to the European game will influence Khimki early in the season, but he surely has the size and skills to be an impact player. Marko Todorovic showed in the EuroLeague last season that he has what it takes to compete against the best center in Europe. Veteran Dmitry Sokolov and powerful Ruslan Pateev give the team together with Todorovic three strong options that will wear on any frontcourt in the competition.
PLAYER TO WATCH
After four and a half seasons playing for Limoges CSP, Nobel Boungou-Colo leaves France for the first time and the abilities he brings can make the difference for Khimki. Boungou-Colo’s combination of size and speed allows Khimki to play with a naturally big lineup when he’s at his regular small forward spot, but also to go for a super quick lineup with the Boungou-Colo at power forward. He can score from the perimeter, via backdoor cuts and in transition, while contributing on the glass and with his defense. A true all-around talent, Boungou-Colo could be a key piece as Khimki seeks another run at EuroCup glory.
The name Khimki alone makes the team a favorite to advance from its regular season group, but the schedule also smiled on the team this season. There will no doubt be some chemistry issues as the team opens the season with six new rotation players, including as many as three new starters. If that is ultimately the case and Khimki struggles early, the squad can take comfort in the fact that it plays three of its final four regular season games on the road. And if everything falls into place after that, Khimki could be a very dangerous opponent.