Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul returns to the 7DAYS EuroCup one season removed from when it lifted the competition's trophy in 2016. It was the first such trophy for a Turkish team, and that granted Galatasaray a spot in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague last season. For its EuroCup return, Galatasaray has tabbed veteran head coach Erman Kunter to try to take another shot at the title. Likewise, there are new faces at all positions. In the paint, Galatasaray has added experience with former EuroCup Final MVP Richard Hendrix and young talents Rakeem Christmas and T.J. Cline. A lot more experience comes from forward DaJuan Summers, as it does on the perimeter from Alex Renfroe and Scotty Hopson. Their EuroLeague experience helps Galatasaray form a well-rounded team together with the players staying on the roster. If everything goes as planned, Galatasaray should be one of the teams that make it far this season.
The Galatasaray backcourt keeps a couple of key players from last season, Emir Preldzic and Goksenin Koksal. A point forward who can handle the ball like few players his size, Preldzic will make his EuroCup debut after 10 years in the EuroLeague. Koksal has been with Galatasaray through five EuroLeague and EuroCup seasons, and so knows the club and its aspirations better than anyone. The team added three new point guards in Alex Renfroe, Mehmet Yagmur and Dwight Hardy. Renfroe brings loads of experience and great speed; Yagmur contributes know-how as one of the few local players in the team; while Hardy knows Turkey well and averaged 16 points in his only previous EuroCup season. Small forward Scotty Hopson, who had a solid 2013-14 EuroLeague season with Anadolu Efes Istanbul, is expected to show his stuff on the wing again.
Galatasaray's roster is mainly focused on big names in the frontcourt. For starters, Richard Hendrix, the MVP of the 2013 EuroCup Final, will become the main pillar of Galatasaray's inside game. His points, rebounds and overall aggressiveness will be the trademark of the team inside. He will be backed by other new faces. Rakeem Christmas arrives as a strong center who could quickly become another breakthrough power player, something of a tradition at Galatasaray. Versatile DaJuan Summers, who has plenty of continental experience, can be as dangerous outside as inside, while rookie T.J. Cline piled up some impressive numbers in college. One player already on the team who stands ready to help is young forward Ege Arar, who has progressed year by year and appeared in 10 EuroLeague games last season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Big man T.J. Cline is ready to make his debut as a professional player and is therefore unknown to most EuroCup fans, but Galatasaray may have found a diamond in the rough. Taking a look at his numbers, one can see why. Cline averaged 18.5 points, 7.8 boards and 5.6 assists for the University of Richmond last season as a conference player of the year. He also finished among Richmond's all-time top 10 in scoring and assists. Cline has a rare combination of size, quick hands and feet, court sense and smooth long-range shooting. All of that will force opponents to adapt to him, but Cline will also be adapting to the pro game and a new style of basketball. Galatasaray has bet that his game fits that style, and if the club is right and Cline acclimates quickly, he can become one of the new names people talk about this season in Europe.
Based on its pedigree and depth, Galatasaray stands to be one of the favorites to survive Group B and advance to the Top 16. It starts the regular season at home against a similar favorite, FC Bayern Munich, then travels to play Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia and Buducnost VOLI Podgorica. Galatasaray must guard against over-confidence, however, since most of its roster is new, as is the head coach. The adaptation of some of the later arrivals and players new to the competition might not become optimal until further into the season, making those first games crucial. Galatasaray will need to develop team chemistry fast in order to hit the ground running on opening day. Anything less would be playing with fire in this competitive EuroCup.