Led by legendary head coach Aito Garcia Reneses, ALBA Berlin is ready to keep battling hard in all competition this season. Garcia Reneses has a reputation for making the most of young talent and his team is a perfect fit for those skills; his oldest player is Luke Sikma, who just turned 29. In that spirit, ALBA brought in four young, ambitious new players. One of them, Rokas Giedraitis, has a lot of valuable 7DAYS EuroCup experience, while the other three – combo guard Martin Hermannsson, physical swingman Kenneth Ogbe and big man Johannes Thiemann – were all born in 1994 and are in the right place to learn from Garcia Reneses while competing against the best players in the EuroCup.
ALBA retained last season's point guard duo which, after a year playing together, should be even better together. Peyton Siva is Garcia Reneses's floor general, a point guard full of determination and energy. He is one of the best defensive guards in the competition. At age 21, Stefan Peno is more experienced than most players his age; he has already featured in both the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the EuroCup. A pass-first playmaker with good penetration skills, Peno must improve his shot selection (21.1% 3FG in German League action last season) to get to the next level. Hermansson and Ogbe should see playing time from Day One. Hermannsson will make his EuroCup debut after being under the radar for a while. He is a great scorer with deep shooting range who is also able to find an open teammate. Ogbe is a physical player who fits perfectly into Coach Garcia Reneses's system; he is young, athletic and ready for the next challenge. Joshiko Saibou offers outside shooting and intensity off the bench.
Giedraitis and Niels Giffey will split minutes at small forward. Giedraitis comes off a very good season with Rytas Vilnius and lands in Berlin at the prime of his career. He can create his own shot as far back as the three-point line and presents his best self in the open court when he is able to run the floor and finish. Giffey is now one of the team's veterans - this is his fifth season with ALBA - and he has had a bigger role every year. Expect him to take further responsibilities this season, too. Sikma, who ranked sixth in performance index rating in the entire EuroCup last season (17.8 per game) will again be among the most important players on the team. His shot selection was great and Sikma was also able to power the boards, ranking fourth in offensive rebounds (2.4) and sixth in total rebounds (6.6) last season. He will get plenty of help from Thiemann, who a good athlete with great energy and determination. Dennis Clifford, a big man with a soft touch who runs the floor very well, returns as the team's starting center, with Tim Schneider offering a helping hand off the bench.
PLAYER TO WATCH
With extended playing time and responsibilities, Sikma had a breakout season with ALBA, becoming a true leader and a EuroCup star. Sikma is an all-around player who can pull the trigger from downtown, but he is deadly from mid-range due to his driving skills and effective jumper (65.2% 2FG last season). He powered the boards like never before, averaging 6.6 per night to go with 13.3 points. At age 29, Sikma is at the peak of his powers. If he is able to cut down on turnovers (2.9 per game last season) and keep his self-confidence at the same level, he will be a candidate to reach the All-EuroCup teams in what will be his fourth season in the competition.
ALBA made it to the Top 16 last season and a couple of consecutive losses against eventual champion Darussafaka Istanbul prevented the team from moving on. Of course, the next goal for ALBA is to return to the EuroCup playoffs. ALBA managed to keep a nice core of players led by Sikma, and Coach Garcia Reneses has a reputation for developing teams over time, making them more and more competitive. In arguably the most demanding EuroCup season of all-time, ALBA will try to play attractive basketball by running the floor and being aggressive on defense. The team has been even stronger on its home floor at the magnificent Mercedes-Benz Arena and with last season's experience, the goals are high in the German capital.