Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas has been among the very best teams in the EuroCup over the last two years, so keeping its core of players made a lot of sense. Although Gran Canaria has a new coach in Luis Casimiro, the club only added a few players as it tries to take the next step. Former All-EuroLeague playmaker Bo McCalebb was its main signing, but Gran Canaria also landed swingman Royce O'Neale and experienced centers Richard Hendrix and Darko Planinic. With those notable reinforcements, Gran Canaria will try to keep doing what it has so well lately - play competitive on the road and rely on its fans to be even stronger at the magnificent Gran Canaria Arena.
McCalebb and Albert Oliver will share the point guard duties. At age 31, McCalebb has a good chance to showcase the skills that made him an elite playmaker in continental basketball and the EuroLeague Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner in the 2011-12 season. A deadly shooter, McCalebb uses his quickness, strength and ball-handling abilities to make himself virtually unstoppable. Oliver, the oldest player in the competition at age 38, offers deep shooting- range, passing skills and of course, very valuable experience. Kyle Kuric is now back in top form and ready to show that he is one of the best pure shooters in Europe. Sasu Salin and Xavi Rabaseda give Coach Casimiro even more firepower, as both are great shooters and athletic players, who will also help a lot on defense.
O'Neale is a very unselfish player who should adjust well due to his team-oriented mentality. A good offensive rebounder for a player his natural position - small forward, O'Neale makes good decisions and can use his size to score in the low post. Pablo Aguilar, Oriol Pauli and Eulis Baez will split minutes at power forward. Right at the prime of his career, Aguilar can use his quickness and strength to run the floor, but also make the outside shot. Baez can also hit it from outside the three-point line and is a hard-nosed defender with great leadership skills. Pauli adds versatility, size and aggressiveness. A former EuroCup champion and Finals MVP, Hendrix will crash the boards and use his post skills to dominate in the paint. Planinic is a very effective scorer down low, a big man who will change a lot of shots. Still-developing big man Anzejs Pasecniks has a good chance to learn from them and keep getting better and stronger.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Kuric missed the majority of last season after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor. Doctors diagnosed him with meningioma, which is a tumor that arises from the meninges — the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. After undergoing successful surgery to remove the tumor, Kuric developed swelling around the brain and had to undergo a second surgery to relieve it. A plate was placed into his skull, but that could not stop Kuric, who worked hard in his recovery and rejoined Gran Canaria at the end of the season. Kuric is a pure scorer, a 47.4% EuroCup career three-point shooter, and he should keep filling the baskets all around the continent.
It is well-known that if you want to succeed in any competition, being strong at home is one great way to do it. Gran Canaria opens the 2016-17 EuroCup at home against Cedevita Zagreb, in a game that could be very important in the fight for first place in Group A. Gran Canaria will also host Lietkabelis Panevezys and Nizhny Novgorod before the end of November, two pivotal games in this race to the Top 16. With a reloaded roster and an experienced coach, Gran Canaria will be one of the favorites to reach deep in the competition. Gran Canaria fans have learned to love the EuroCup and will give the team the extra push to try to go all the way this time.