After reaching the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16 last season, ratiopharm Ulm will try to do as much again – and more – with a combination of solid returnees and key additions. Among the latter, forwards Luke Harangody and Ryan Thompson arrive with vast EuroCup and Turkish Airlines EuroLeague experience, while young talents Ismet Akpinar and forward Isaac Fotu also know the competition well. Ulm also signed a pair of promising guards set to make their EuroCup debuts – Toure Murry and Trey Lewis – but otherwise, Coach Thorsten Leibenath decided to keep most of the core of last season's successful roster. As such, continuity will be complemented by a boost of fresh ambition as Ulm to aims high once again this season.
Ulm is not a very big team, so the backcourt is of utmost importance. The club decided to bring in new blood with Toure Murry, who comes off a solid season in Turkey, and Trey Lewis, who posted good numbers as a German League rookie last season. Another new face at guard is young Ismet Akpinar, who has played two EuroCup seasons as a regular backup and is ready for more. All will take their cues from point guard Per Guenther, an Ulm icon starting his 10th season with the club. Young talent Marcell Pongo, who came on strong in midseason last winter, is back for more, too. Completing the backcourt on the wings are returnee Da Sean Butler, one of the team's best EuroCup performers last season, and Ryan Thompson, who boasts a double-digit scoring average from his three previous EuroCup seasons.
Ulm's frontcourt has changed, too, and will likely need two new additions – Luke Harangody and Isaac Fotu – to step up big. The former arrives straight from the EuroLeague, where he reached the playoffs with Darussafaka, and is a former EuroCup finalist, too. Fotu comes from New Zealand by way of the Spanish League, where he was a double-digit scorer last season and nearly so in the 2015-16 EuroCup, as well. Harangody and Fotu will play off veteran big man Tim Ohlbrecht, back after his many strong EuroCup performances last season ended with him missing the Top 16 due to injury. Back, too, are young bigs Joschka Ferner and Bjoern Rohwer, who each have a couple years' worth of EuroCup experience behind them. Ulm's commitment to youth also includes Till Pape, a power forward heading into his second EuroCup season, completing the next generation of Ulm big men.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Ryan Thompson is back to the EuroCup after one season away with a clear mission: he has been signed to become the main pillar of the new ratiopharm Ulm team. He has experience on all fronts: three years in the EuroCup, one in the EuroLeague and two in the German League. Last season, he reached the FIBA Europe Cup quarterfinals with Telekom Bonn, and this year he returns to the EuroCup as one of the main leaders of his new team. He has averaged 10.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 38 EuroCup games over the years, and he will be expected to at least deliver similar numbers in Ulm. He will have a group of solid players around him, but being a team leader in your first season in a club is never easy, and Thompson will have to demonstrate that he is up for the challenge.
Group D is really solid, but ratiopharm Ulm has reasons to believe in another Top 16 qualification. Forging quick team chemistry that could lead to early wins against debutante Tofas Bursa and returnee ASVEL Villeurbanne could be the key to gaining momentum for the next phase. The long, tough trips to Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas and Zenit St Petersburg will end with class-A rivals waiting, but if Ulm plays its cards right, it has some solid options to advance. The short regular season punishes mistakes – especially at home – so the men of Coach Leibenath will have to hit the ground running in order to repeat the success of last season.