As the race for the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16 tightens, there are many familiar faces aiming to reach the second stage of the competition to continue their respective quests for the title. One not-so-familiar face in the running is that of Germani Brescia Leonessa. The club has not yet existed for a full decade, but is already in its third season in the top Italian league and this season made its debut in the EuroCup.
Brescia is the second-largest city in the Lombardy region, behind only Milan, with a population of 200,000, but had been without professional basketball for some 13 years after Basket Brescia folded, so local fans were ready to embrace the new club when it was born. In July 2009 Graziella Bragaglio and Matteo Bonetti rose to the challenge and founded Centrale del Latte Basket Brescia Leonessa. They inherited a local youth system and acquired the rights from Juvi Cremona to begin competing in the Serie A amateur division (formerly known as B1). Brescia reached the playoffs in its maiden campaign and a year later finished the regular season ranked second overall, Mid-season coaching hire Sandro Dell'Agnello guided Brescia over Perugia in the playoff semifinals and past Trapani in the finals to earn promotion to the professional ranks of Italian basketball in Legadue.
Point guard Leemire Goldwire and scorer Ryan Thompson became the club's first foreign players as Brescia marked an impressive first season at that level by placing seventh and reaching the playoffs before falling to Givova Scafati. The team's second Legadue season started poorly, but Alberto Martelossi turned thing around to earn that league's top coaching honors, while veteran center David Brkic was named its player of the year. They carried Brescia to fourth place and a pair of series wins in the playoffs before losing to Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia in the fifth-and-deciding game of the finals on the road.
A reshuffling of the leagues found Brescia competing in the National A Gold division in 2013-14 and the next season on the Serie A2 Gold. In between those campaigns, Andrea Diana is promoted from assistant to head coach, a position he remains in today. Brescia went into the 2015-16 season with Mirza Alibegovic, Juan Fernandez and Damian Hollis among its top players and the team was strong, finishing the regular season in second place with a 21-9 record. Late in the season, veteran forward David Moss joined and proved to be an important piece in the playoffs. All four of the team's playoff series went the distance, but ultimately Brescia eliminated Trapani, Tortona, Scafati and finally Fortitudo Bologna to become the Serie A2 champions and clinch a spot in the top league.
For its first season in Italy's best league, management decided to infuse the roster with new talent and added the Vitali brothers, Luca and Michele; Jared Berggren, Marcus Landry, Lee Moore and later Christian Burns. Landry proceeded to lead the league in scoring and was chosen MVP, while Luca Vitali paced the competition in assists, as Brescia finished 10th and reached the Italian Cup semifinals.
Some may have thought that major improvement on that season could not happen fast, but no one told that to the dreamers in Brescia. Last season Brescia reached new heights as it occupied first place for nearly two-thirds of the regular season! Coach Diana's charges finished in third place with a 20-10 record, swept aside Varese in the playoff quarterfinals and won Game 1 of the semis on the road at AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan before losing in four games to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague side. Brescia also made noise in the Italian Cup where it knocked off Virtus Bologna in the quarterfinals and bested Cantu in the semis before losing 69-67 to Fiat Turin in the final. That magical season qualified the club to make its pan-European debit in the 7DAYS EuroCup for the 2018-19 season.
Brescia came into the current season carrying expectations. With only Coach Diana, team captain Moss, Luca Vitali and Brian Sacchetti returning, management rolled out a new-look roster with Awudu Abass, Bryon Allen, Gerald Beverly and Jordan Hamilton among its main additions. After starting the season with three straight losses, Brescia stunned previously-undefeated Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in Round 4 and has since added triumphs over AS Monaco on the road and Galatasaray Istanbul at home to enter the home stretch of the EuroCup regular season with a 3-5 record in Group A and total control of its destiny in the race to reach the Top 16.
Could a new Italian powerhouse emerge in Brescia? There is a group of players, coaches, support staff and management – as well as a passionate fan base – hard at work with that as their goal. The future looks promising at PalaLeonessa.