Group C is headlined by the winningest team in Eurocup history, Spain’s Valencia Basket. Another Spanish side, CAI Zaragoza, returns for a third straight Eurocup campaign, while Proximus Spirou Charleroi of Belgium enters its 11th Eurocup season. ratiopharm Ulm of Germany is back after a year away from the Eurocup. France’s SLUC Nancy heads into its fifth Eurocup season, while Umana Reyer Venice of Italy readies for its competition debut.
Former Spanish League MVP Andy Panko of SLUC Nancy is the senior-most player in Group C at age 37. His new teammate, big man Florent Pietrus, won the 2010 Eurocup with Valencia and as a 34-year-old last season he averaged a career-high in scoring. With 160 Euroleague games under his belt, Tomas Ress of Umana Venice embarks on just his second Eurocup campaign. At age 35, Ress has already shown he can do it all and along with Phil Goss and Ben Ortner, will be a reference for his younger teammates this season. Likewise Spirou is not short on experience; 35-year old center Christophe Beghin enters his seventh season with club and guard Justin Hamilton, who is just one year his junior, will play his eighth straight. Hamilton's first appearance this season will be his 50th in the Eurocup. Valencia's Romain Sato is a former Euroleague and Eurocup winner; at 34 years old, Sato is just one of five players in their 30s on the team's roster.
CAI Zaragoza forward Isaac Fotu can shoot and rebound and he’s only 21 years old! After a strong pre debut with Manresa last season, the New Zealander will get a chance to leave his mark in Zaragoza. Umana Venice guard Stefano Tonut was one of the leading scorers in the Italian second division last season and his father, Alberto Tonut, helped the Italian national team win a gold medal at EuroBasket 1983. Could this be Stefano’s breakout year? Ben Sene proved himself as a capable backup last season and the promising 21-year old Nancy point guard looks ready for more responsibility. Small forward Joschka Ferner of ratiopharm Ulm has proven himself at the junior level and will get a chance to be a contributor in the Eurocup now, while teammate Philipp Neumann will be counted on for big things in the paint. Spirou’s 20-year center Michael Fusek will be among the tallest players in all of Europe this season at 2.20 meters. With his height, he’s sure to have an impact. I don’t know if it’s fair to call Valencia's Bojan Dubljevic "young" anymore, since the 23-year old is already a two-time Eurocup Rising Star trophy winner. He’s surely one of the best players in the competition.
Valencia Basket is always looking to make a run at the Eurocup title and to improve its odds of taking the 2016 crown turned to do-it-all swingman Fernando San Emeterio, who is a former All-Euroleague selection, and center Justin Hamilton, who could be a difference maker in the middle. Forward Halil Kanacevic of CAI Zaragoza was the Last 32 Round 2 MVP last season; new teammate Drake Diener already has a 30-point game under his belt. Umana Venice knows one way to infuse healthy chemistry in a new-look team is with an experienced point guard and leader. Enter Mike Green, who took Paris Levallois all the way to the quarterfinals last season. Sharpshooting brothers Jimmy and Billy Baron were among the centerpieces of Proximus Spirou Charleroi summer signings and should help generate plenty of offense for the team. Ulm has a new backcourt with scorer Carlon Brown and playmaker DeAndre Kane, plus a new option inside with Raymar Morgan. The aforementioned Panko and shooter Alando Tucker were signed to be lynchpins for Nancy.
Group C is as wide open as any other with lots of talent, experience and former champs involved. Valencia Basket has all of the above and can reasonably be expected to not only challenge for first place in the group, but to have a long run in the competition. After back-to-back appearances in the Last 32, CAI Zaragoza is stronger and eager to take the next step. Proximus Spirou Charleroi is a long-term fixture in the Eurocup, but recent seasons have not been kind to the Belgian powerhouse. It last advanced a stage in the competition in 2008-09. This could be the year it ends that drought. ratiopharm Ulm has a team that is young and hungry, with players that have had a taste of high-level European basketball. They are certainly a team to watch out for. SLUC Nancy has quietly built a tough team with veteran leadership and a few young wildcards. After a Last 32 run last season, Nancy won’t accept anything less. And newcomer Umana Reyer Venice, with its wily 70-year old coach Carlo Recalcati, will not be content just by participating. Perhaps its start as the underdog, but Venice has the right tools to fight for a top four spot too.