Six years removed from a trip to the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals, perennial Croatian champions Cedevita Zagreb had made it loud and clear they intend to make more noise in the competition. Cedevita decided to revamp its roster and appoint a new but proven head coach with a track of success. Jure Zdovc, the former EuroCup Coach of the Year, is the man in charge of putting the offense of his new team into the hands of point guards Will Cherry and Roko Ukic, the latter of whom reunites with Zdovc after the two spent last season together with AEK Athens. Kevin Murphy is a swingman making his EuroCup debut, while forwards Ivan Ramljak and former Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion Demetris Nichols make their return to the competition. A new pair of veteran big men, Andrija Stipanovic and Chris Johnson, will roam the paint and look to become big factors for the team on both ends of the floor.
Cedevita is as deep at the point guard position as any team in the competition, with combo guard Will Cherry and veteran Roko Ukic ready to run the team offense. Ukic returns to Cedevita after two seasons away, and his experience will help the team on and off the court. Meanwhile, third point guard Toni Katic will continue to have his role off the bench and is ready to make another step up in his career in his third season with the club. That playmaking trio will not have to do it all alone. They are set to have plenty of perimeter weapons around them, with swingmen Kevin Murphy and Filip Kruslin as reliable scoring threats from all ranges. However, it might be a do-it-all big guard, the 18-year old Dzanan Musa, who will carry the largest load. Coach Zdovc has a proven record of trusting young players, and Musa has all the traits, talent and confidence needed for such a big role. Meanwhile, young guard Toni Perkovic will provide depth at already every position for Cedevita.
The Cedevita signing that made the most noise this summer was that of Demetris Nichols, a veteran shooting forward who is only 16 months removed from lifting the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague trophy with CSKA Moscow. Nichols is one of the most dangerous three-point shooters on the continent, and will definitely provide an offensive spark for a physical front line that features several bruisers. Another player who is making his return to the team is Ivan Ramljak, a defensive-minded and athletic small forward, while undersized blue-collar power forward Karlo Zganec is already a veteran of three EuroLeague and EuroCup seasons despite his young age, 22. One sentinel in the paint will be Andrija Stipanovic, a center whose muscles, heart and emotions will be a big factor in each Cedevita game. The other is Chris Johnson, a veteran center who is yet to join the team due to his extended season in the Chinese League. Another player Cedevita cannot wait to see in action is power forward Marko Arapovic, a versatile stretch four who is coming back from a knee injury and is expected to return in the later stages of the regular season. Until that happens, teenage big men Lovro Buljevic and Darko Bajowill get more chances to provide depth in the paint.
PLAYER TO WATCH
The teenage sensation Dzanan Musa is set for already his third full season on the elite level, but this seems to be the first campaign where Musa looks destined for a lead role on a professional team. The big and versatile guard has it all: scoring touch, shooting range, athleticism and court vision. All of that makes him one of the go-to guys on this Cedevita team. After two years of coming off the bench, Musa started delivering big at the end of last season and over the summer with Bosnia and Herzegovina's national team. With a proven ability to shine on big stages, and unafraid to carry the biggest of loads, Musa has all the tools to be a great factor for Cedevita. Surrounded with veterans, the young gun is poised for a breakout year in the 7DAYS EuroCup.
The club from the Croatian capital is not hiding its ambition to make a long run in the competition and has acted accordingly, putting together a roster that on paper looks at least two players deep at every position. Coach Zdovc is no stranger to EuroCup success, but with only role players having stayed with the team from last season, he will have the job of getting all the pieces to work together. If early results are any indication, Cedevita is a strong candidate to become one of the EuroCup's dark horses this season. The team, which looks strong defensively and has plenty of offensive firepower, will be one to watch during this EuroCup campaign.