Andorra is a microstate located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and its basketball team is quickly becoming the country's best sporting ambassador. Last season Andorra reached the Copa del Rey tournament and the Spanish League playoffs and put mighty Real Madrid’s back to the wall in both competitions. Andorra brought in some new, well-rounded players to be more competitive in what appears to be the most-challenging season in club history. Swingmen Jaka Blazic and Vladimir Jankovic are among the better-known additions. Combo guard Jaime Fernandez also joined the backcourt and Andorra fortified the paint with Przemek Karnowski and Moussa Diagne alongside stretch power forward John Shurna. Coach Joan Peñarroya has a deep, competitive roster, as Andorra gets ready for an exciting opportunity.
Coach Peñarroya has many perimeter options and using all of his players wisely will be a challenge. Andrew Albicy returns as the team's starting point guard. An athletic, pass-first playmaker, Albicy will make sure to put the ball in the right place. Jaime Fernandez offers instant offense, ball-handling ability and quickness, while Guillem Colom is set to provide defense and basketball smarts off the bench. Colom will face his brother Quino in the regular season opener in a much-anticipated showdown. Blazic brings in aggressiveness, experience and deep shooting range. He is expected to play a big role for Andorra, just like Vladimir Jankovic, a great scorer with one-on-one skills who could make the difference at small forward. Scoring ace David Jelinek, three-point specialist David Walker and hard-nosed small forward Chris Czerapovich will also see playing time at the wings to make sure Andorra plays with high energy at all times.
Andorra has made sure to have two very different options at power forward. Beqa Burjanadze is a force of nature; a very physical player with good ball-handling skills who can pull the trigger from downtown. John Shurna is more experienced and one of the best shooters in the competition. Don't let his unorthodox shooting style fool you; Shurna is deadly from beyond the arc. Andorra is deep at center with three very different players at that spot. Oliver Stevic is very effective on offense due to his post skills and mid-range shots. Andorra will be his fifth EuroCup team, so his experience will be very valuable. Przemek Karnowski offers size, intimidation and rebounding skills. An old-school center, expect Karnowski to be a reference in the paint. Moussa Diagne arrives on loan from FC Barcelona Lassa to provide energy, size and athleticism. His post moves get better every year, and Diagne is working hard on his game to avoid foul trouble and help his team in many ways, such as shot blocking and rebounding.
PLAYER TO WATCH
After a long run in the EuroLeague, Blazic returns to the EuroCup ready to play a major role on a rising team. Blazic last played the competition with Crvena Zvezda Belgrade with which he reached the semifinals in 2014, and also made it to the EuroLeague Final Four with Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz in 2016. At age 27, Blazic is set to enter the prime of his career in Andorra and expects to make the most of his energetic playing style, driving skills and great character. Blazic is a tough defender who rarely gives up, and has already proved he can be very reliable in crunch time - last season, he hit every shot required to help Baskonia beat Real Madrid on the road. Blazic has the chance to prove that he is more than a top-class slasher and on-the-ball defender and take his game to a new level with added, exciting responsibilities.
Spanish League teams are usually very competitive, with or without previous EuroCup experience; Unicaja Malaga went all the way last season in its first appearance. Andorra definitely has the depth, size and experience required to have a good EuroCup season, but adjusting to longer trips and more games could be a critical issue for a new team at this level. Andorra's first goal, as always, will be making its fans happy by being highly competitive against everyone. Of course, the team must set its first goal of making it to the Top 16 and in order to do that, Andorra needs its six new players to adjust to a new situation, even a new country. If Andorra finds the right chemistry right away, it has all it takes to make it to the Top 16 – and probably to fight for bigger goals.