With its debut appearance in the 7DAYS EuroCup, FIAT Turin continues its return to basketball prominence by participating in a European competition for the first time since 1987. For this historic season, Turin appointed a new head coach with experience in coaching on the biggest of stages, Luca Banchi, and acquired players with 7DAYS EuroCup and Turkish Airlines EuroLeague experience. The likes of Sasha Vujacic and Trevor Mbakwe, or a prolific scorer like Lamar Patterson, surely look to make Turin dangerous, while other additions like Antonio Iannuzzi, Diante Garrett, Andre Jones and Quinton Stephens provide the team with high-quality depth. All should help Turin be competitive – and perhaps more – in its EuroCup debut campaign.
Turin has plenty of experience in its backcourt, starting with a pair of veteran point guards Giuseppe Poeta and Davide Parente. Poeta, a former Italian national team playmaker, knows well how to go far in the EuroCup, having been part of the Dolomiti Energia Trento squad that reached semifinals two seasons ago. Both Poeta and Parente are expected to have their roles coming off the bench behind new arrivals Andre Jones and Diante Garrett. Both are proven playmakers, but both are also making their EuroCup debuts. The last signing in the backcourt, veteran shooter Sasha Vujacic, brings to Turin a wealth of experience at winning and succeeding from the best leagues in the world. The additions of Vujacic, scorer Lamar Patterson and swingman Durand Scott should lift team’s offense to another level. While Scott does well getting to the rim, Patterson is a very dangerous whether driving or shooting.
Turin returns only one frontcourt starter from last season, but he is one of the most important pieces of the team, Deron Washington. A fan favorite, Washington was team's second-best scorer, its top rebounder, and the one who played the most minutes before injury cut short his Italian League season. A force on the glass, Washington is set to have a new partner in rebounding, center Trevor Mbakwe, who owns a EuroCup career-average of 7.3 boards through four seasons. Rebounding should be one of Turin’s strengths as rookie forward Quinton Stephens also thrives on the glass, while youngster David Okeke, and veterans Valerio Mazzola and newcomer Antonio Iannuzzi give the team great depth in the paint.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Despite his relatively young age, 33, Sasha Vujacic returns to the country where he first turned pro with 16 years of experience behind him. The last two were with New York of the NBA, whose title he won twice at the end of last decade with the Los Angeles Lakers. He has not been a stranger to Euroleague Basketball competitions, though. Vujacic played three seasons, including one in the EuroCup, for Udine of Italy, where he went as a junior from his native Slovenia. He returned to Europe for two Turkish Airlines EuroLeague seasons between 2011 and 2013, with Anadolu Efes Istanbul, and spent parts of two more with Reyer Venezia of Italy and Laboral Kutxa Vitoria of Spain. All told he has a double-digit scoring average in Euroleague Basketball competitions. Vujacic brings a shooter's confidence to Turin, but is also able to rebound and move the ball. His leadership will be the key, however, giving teammates the chance to feed off his know-how and wealth of expertise in how to win basketball games.
Different newcomers have had different kinds of success in the EuroCup over the years, and the length of Turin’s season may well depend on team's ability to run the floor. Turin has the look of a really good rebounding team, one that is capable of picking up extra possessions on offense. If coach Banchi's team successfully finds a way to not only control the defensive boards, but to develop a transition game out of those rebounds, Turin could give headaches to its opponents every game night. And in so doing, it can make a historic return to the European stage even more special.