The Partizan NIS Belgrade roster has many new faces as it sets to embark on a new 7DAYS EuroCup campaign, though a few of them joined the team in the second part of last season. That was the case with big men Bandja Sy and Djordje Gagic. Of the five newcomers, none is older than 23 years of age. Coach Nenad Canak has an all-new backcourt featuring point guards Aleksej Nikolic and Marcus Paige and a potential difference-maker in a highly-talented forward Rade Zagorac. Also onboard is big man Jock Landale; for all four this will be their first EuroCup season, though Nikolic does have three Turkish Airlines EuroLeague campaigns under his belt. At 20 years of age, swingman Amar Gegic is the youngest arrival after making a brief competition debut last season with FC Bayern Munich.
Partizan's offense will be in the hands of a pair of 23-year old playmakers, the young veteran Nikolic and a EuroCup rookie Paige. After three seasons of limited minutes in Bamberg, Nikolic is poised to show what he can do as is Paige in his first season on the European continent. No team allowed more points than Partizan last season, and this is where the team's defense will start this year, as both players are able to play aggressively on the perimeter. Young scorer and former ANGT standout Aleksandar Aranitovic will try to continue his way back from nasty knee injuries he suffered in 2016, while sharpshooter Vanja Marinkovic - 21 and in his third season in the competition - will once again be a serious threat from long range. In addition to Gegic, guard Slobodan Jovanovic and playmaker Tadija Tadic will look for bigger roles compared to last year.
Partizan has nice depth in the frontcourt and some experience as well with its only three players older than 25 all up front. The veteran leadership starts with a team captain and power forward Novica Velickovic, who made his professional debut with the club back in 2004 and for years battled on EuroLeague floors playing for Partizan, Real Madrid and Bamberg. Gagic and Sy add much-needed experience to this young side, while Zagorac can occupy both forward positions and has versatility and a knack for scoring that should give the offense a significant boost. 18-year old Marko Pecarski, who was chosen MVP of the U18 European Championship over the summer, can play both as a four and a five and will surely get an expanded role compared to last season's 13 minutes per game. Newcomer Landale, with his 2.11 meters, will add size and depth in the paint, while power forwards Strahinja Gavrilovic and Nikola Tanaskovic have already proven they can contribute and will look for more opportunities off the bench.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Teenage sensation Pecarski looks to have a bright future, but many eyes this season will certainly be looking at Rade Zagorac. In his first go in this competition, and still only at 23 years of age, Zagorac will try to return to his old form after a forgettable season, which was his first outside of his native Serbia. Tough to defend inside and on the perimeter, just little over a year ago Zagorac was a proven scorer who put up double-digits any time he would step on the court. He has also been a regular contributor on the glass throughout his career. With such traits, he could easily grow into the role of go-to guy of this Partizan team.
Partizan had the youngest team in the competition last season and might take that honor once again. However, with two-thirds of the roster returning and a season of EuroCup competition – and professional basketball – under their respective belts, this squad will be a lot more balanced, deeper and dangerous that it was last season when it managed to muster only one victory. In addition, when it comes to Partizan, one cannot forget the great pride players play with while wearing club's black-and-white uniform, as well as the dedicated fan base that makes visits to the legendary Aleksandar Nikolic Hall memorable ones. Partizan might not yet regain its former glory, but it has a team with great promise.