After a notable debut last season in the 7DAYS EuroCup, including participation in the Top 16, Lietkabelis Panevezys returns with the goal of making an even bigger name for itself among basketball fans across Europe. In order to do that, the team has signed a new coach, Arturs Stalbergs, and a handful of new faces intent on merging with a core of veterans who are back for a second go at the competition. The most recognizable of those new faces is double EuroCup champ Simas Jasaitis, whose experience will be a valuable asset. The team stayed true to its Lithuanian essence by bringing in interesting domestic players like Adas Juskevicius and Vaidas Ceputakis, who together with Zanis Peiners of Latvia, add depth and talent to a roster that could take many by surprise.
The backcourt of Lietkabelis starts with veteran Gintaras Leonavicius, who provides experience and deep knowledge of the game in his 12th season as a pro. He will be joined again at point by Lorenzo Williams, who extended his contract this summer after proving to be a main pillar of the team last season with his points and assists. Another big name among the small men is Adas Juskevicius, who will play his third EuroCup season, has two Turkish Airlines EuroLeague seasons with Zalgiris Kaunas to fall back on, and is coming home from a good season in the competitive Spanish League. Already in his sixth season as a pro, 22-year-old Lukas Aukstikalnis offers youthful energy as a valuable back-up. On the wings, expect Simas Jasaitis to become one of the team leaders in his return to his native country after a couple of seasons in Italy. He will try to put his experience, matched only by a handful of EuroCup players, to good use in order to bring Lietkabelis to the next level.
The inside game of Lietkabelis is clearly shaped by two household names in European basketball in the last decade: the Lavrinovic brothers, Darjus and Ksistof, who boast a combined 15 years of EuroLeague experience and 14 in the EuroCup. It's safe to say this pair knows the ins and outs of the game as few other players do. Despite being true veterans at this point, due to turn 38 on November 1, they remain a lethal combination. To help them, the club signed big man Vaidas Cepukaitis, one of the best centers in the Lithuanian League last season. Coming in at power forward is Zanis Peiners, who played the EuroCup with Ventspils in 2014-15 and averaged double digits in scoring in Greece last season. He will be the piece of athleticism missing in the team's frontcourt puzzle. Some more local talent appears with Donatas Tarolis, who was an important piece for Lietkabelis last season and will look to increase his role even more. Last, but definitely not least, power forward Zygimantas Skucas is coming off a breakout season during which he raised many eyebrows and turned many heads. If his progression continues in that direction, he will be one of the two or three most decisive players for Lietkabelis.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Zygimantas Skucas made sure everybody heard his name in his European debut last season. By Game 2 of the EuroCup Regular Season he had already earned weekly MVP honors, and after that, he remained one of the most solid players on his team through the Top 16. He started in 11 of his 14 appearances and had a solid role despite being only 24 years old. He was the third-best scorer for Lietkabelis (9.2 ppg), its second-best rebounder (3.9 rpg) and fifth-best passer (1.7 apg). That solid year of experience will lay a new foundation for him to build upon. Now Lietkabelis knows what effort the EuroCup demands, as does Skucas, so expect the young power forward to do big things this season, as well.
Group B is probably one of the most competitive groups in the EuroCup as regards the teams that will be playing for the last Top 16 tickets. In terms of experience, FC Bayern Munich and Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul are sure contenders, but that's where Lietkabelis Panevezys steps in. Take its solid roster built upon Lithuanian heart and the valuable experience the team gained last season, and the combination could be what Lietkabelis needs to advance further this season. The home games will be as vital as ever to keep its chances alive, and there's no doubt that trips to Podgorica, Reggio Emilia and even Jerusalem will have a big say when the time to decide the four qualifiers from this group comes. On the other hand, opponents know more about Lietkabelis now, too, and the team cannot fly under the radar anymore. Everybody is aware of what the team from Panevezys is capable of doing, so the effort will only have to be bigger if Lietkabelis wants to repeat the success of its previous EuroCup campaign.