A newcomer in the competition, AS Monaco held on to the majority of the roster that carried the club to within a step of winning the French League and FIBA Basketball Champions League titles last season. However, there will be plenty of new in Monaco this season with Coach Saso Filipovski taking over the reigns. Point guard Derek Needham, big forward Jarrod Jones, undersized big man Ian Hummer, forward Remi Barry and last-minute addition Lazeric Jones give the team some fresh blood as Monaco looks to establish itself as a rising power domestically and with a strong showing in its 7DAYS EuroCup debut.
A small, but very explosive point guard, Needham will run Monaco’s offense this season. He is known for his knack of scoring often and in bunches, but will have plenty of scoring help around him. The team’s top scorer last season was guard Gerald Robinson, and swingman Paul Lacombe, who will spend his time at small forward, also averaged double digits in scoring last season. Yakuba Ouattara returned to the club in the spring, and has not only been a viable scoring option from the perimeter for the club in the previous seasons, but perhaps the team’s best shooter. Luc Loubaki, the youngest player on Monaco’s roster at 21 years of age, adds backcourt depth. D.J. Cooper, who was expected to share playmaking duties with Needham, left the club due to personal reasons but Monaco was quick and signed Jones, a pass-first playmaker with EuroCup experience, deadly from beyond the three-point line.
Monaco’s frontline is loaded with experience. The anchor of the group is center Elmedin Kikanovic, who averaged 19.6 points per game the last time he played in the competition. He is the go-to guy in the paint and is flanked by an even more experienced big man: 37-year old power forward Amara Sy, who debuted in the EuroCup back in 2003 and made 13 appearances in the EuroLeague even before that. Forwards Jones and Hummer are also proven scorers and will try to bring those traits with them to Monaco. Georgi Joseph, just two years younger than Sy, is an undersized center who can provide depth in the paint, while Barry can be of great help to Coach Filipovski at both forward positions.
PLAYER TO WATCH:
Kikanovic is a player who can make opposing big man sweat even before the games begin. When a young center knows he has to be able to match Kikanovic's combination of strength and savvy low-post moves, it can spell trouble. In many ways his game is old-school – Kikanovic will not venture much to the perimeter and does not play above the rim, but his technical abilities and experience make him an elite scorer in the paint. He has not only proven himself as a capable scorer over 69 EuroCup games during a combined five seasons with Crvena Zvezda Belgrade and ALBA Berlin, but Kikanovic has done so efficiently by making 57.2% of his two-pointers and getting to the line, where he shoots 80.4%. Having such a dominant offensive force inside will open things up for Monaco's scorers and make the team a dangerous side.
Do not expect Monaco to be your usual newcomer in the competition. It is a club with great ambitions and a team that has been fighting and contending for trophies in each of the last three seasons. The backcourt of Needham and Robinson will present all kind of nightmares for opposing defenses, which will give even more room to big man Kikanovic, who should get his share of buckets anyway. And with Coach Filipovski, who has 10 seasons of head coaching in the EuroLeague and EuroCup combined, Monaco has both the firepower and experience to be a team to watch. Monaco might be a popular travel destination, but when it comes to basketball, Monaco it may end up giving visiting teams all kinds of headaches.