A true giant of the competition, 2013 EuroCup champion Lokomotiv comes off a semifinals appearance last season and then went out and restocked the roster to make another run at glory. The team enters the season with eight new faces, but six of them have past EuroCup experience. Coach Sasa Obradovic, an elite guard in his own right during his playing days, can get creative with the trio of newcomers at the guard positions: Joe Ragland, Chris Babb and Trevor Lacey. The paint will be an entirely new look for the club with three additions: Brian Qvale, Frank Elegar and Ivan Nelyubov. Russian forwards Pavel Antipov and Stanislav Ilnitskiy, the latter of whom won the EuroCup in 2015, help make this a very versatile squad.
The Lokomotiv backcourt starts with All-EuroCup guard Mardy Collins, whose multifaceted game allows him to play three perimeter positions alongside any one of the newcomers. Point guard Joe Ragland put up big numbers in his lone previous EuroCup campaign with FoxTown Cantu and should be able to duplicate those with all the talent around him. Chris Babb is an elite three-point shooter, much like returnee Evgeny Baburin. Athletic shooting guard Trevor Lacey, who will make his EuroCup debut this season, is a talented scorer from anywhere on the floor in both transition and half-court sets. A part-time starter last season and former EuroCup winner, Dimitriy Khvostov can be counted on to lock up some of the opposition’s best scorers. Back for his third season with the team, Australian forward Ryan Broekhoff is a special player who can light it up from downtown and is tough enough to match up with and rebound against power forwards when Coach Obradovic opts for a small lineup. Denis Levshin played well for Lokomotiv’s B team last season and will look to make his EuroCup debut this season.
Lokomotiv can have many different looks in the paint this season. Brian Qvale was among the most-productive centers in the EuroCup two seasons ago with EWE Baskets Oldenburg, when he was among the league leaders in shooting accuracy (67.2%). Frank Elegar is best known for his fantastic rebounding ability – he led the VTB United League in that stat last season – and can also score around the basket. Bruising center Ivan Nelyubov is a third option who opponents will not want to mess with. No player took more offensive rebounds (49) in the EuroCup last season than power forward Kevin Jones, who also proved himself to be a tough low-post scorer. Prototypical modern stretch four Pavel Antipov is another weapon ideal for Coach Obradovic’s system. Russian national team big man Vladimir Ivlev was a strong contributor in a minor role last season and that role may grow this season while forward Stanislav Ilnitskiy will hope to make a breakthrough this season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Australian national team forward Ryan Broekhoff rarely puts up the biggest numbers on his team, but he has played a central role in Lokomotiv’s success the past two seasons. Broekhoff impacts the game in ways that can be seen easily and ways that can’t. His spectacular three-point shooting (42.6% combined in four EuroCup and EuroLeague seasons) not only produces lots of points, but also opens the floor for others. Broekhoff is a natural small forward, but his shooting ability and toughness allow him to play power forward too, where he becomes an instant mismatch for most opposing ‘4’s. Just as important as his on-floor prowess is the fact that Broekhoff, the only remaining player from Lokomotiv’s historic march to the 2016 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four, provides continuity on a team with so many newcomers and can be a guiding force in carrying the squad to great heights once again.
On paper, Lokomotiv has everything needed to challenge for its second EuroCup title. The team looks to be an offensive juggernaut with several lethal three-point marksmen, great penetrators, back-to-the basket scorers and athletic bigs. On top of that, Coach Obradovic benefits from versatile players, which enables him to go with lineups of various sizes and speeds without sacrificing ability. The biggest question surrounding the squad may be related to chemistry and how long it will take the team to find it. With eight newcomers and as many as 12 players who consider themselves to at a minimum be parts of the rotation, it may take time for things to come together. But if that chemistry can be found, Lokomotiv fans could be in for a special season.