In essence, it’s all new for Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana, which is a merger of two previously existing clubs: Cedevita Zagreb and Union Olimpija Ljubljana. Though a handful of players remain from Cedevta’s 2018-19 squad, the vast majority of the roster is new, although several have previous ties to one club or the other. The duo of Ryan Boatright, who played for Cedevita in the 2016-17 campaign, and Codi Miller-McIntyre will share playmaking duties. Former Olimpija swingman Jaka Blazic returns home to provide points. Likewise, Mirko Mulalic and Sasa Zagorac are former Olimpija players. Forward Martin Krampelj will make his professional debut this season, Mikael Hopkins his EuroCup debut and veteran Marko Simonovic will provide leadership for a new team with a rich history and high hopes.
Point guards Ryan Boatright and Codi Miller-McIntyre will have important roles on the team whether they are assuming playmaking duties alone or playing side-by-side. Boatright dazzled in his first stop at Cedevita, but had a lesser role as a mid-season addition at Unicaja Malaga last year. Miller-McIntyre is more of a natural playmaker and is virtually unstoppable when his outside shot is falling. A scorer with vast EuroLeague experience, Jaka Blazic can be this team's go-to guy for a clutch basket and a leader off the court. Filip Kruslin, who started at shooting guard for Cedevita last season, does most of his damage from downtown. The well-traveled Mirko Mulalic is a sharpshooter who can heat up quickly off the bench. Only 20 years old, three-point ace David Kralj is back at his boyhood club will fight for minutes after playing college basketball and on loan in Slovenia last season. Teenager Petar Vujacic is part of the team’s future plans and will look to gain experience in his first EuroCup campaign.
Small forward Edo Muric is a seasoned veteran who has already played in five different counties. He is a tough defender with the skill to post-up a smaller opponent or shoot over bigger defenders. Marko Simonovic is a classic stretch-4 whose shooting touch is of the highest levels. Power forward Martin Krampelj returns home after playing college basketball in the United States and has the opportunity to carve out an important role. Mikael Hopkins can play either interior position. He steps up to prove himself in the EuroCup after being named best forward in the FIBA Europe Cup last season. Andrija Stipanovic is an imposing force who has started at center for Cedevita the past two seasons. Big Sasa Zagorac, who played for Olimpija in the EuroLeague back in 2003, is the senior member of the squad and still effective in stretching the floor, passing from the high post and crashing the boards. His leadership could be vital to the team’s success.
PLAYER TO WATCH
One of three players on the Cedevita Olimpija roster who starred on Slovenia’s gold-medal-winning squad at EuroBasket 2017 (along with Edo Muric and Sasa Zagorac), Jaka Blazic is the team captain and one of its most recognizable and important players. He was the team's second-leading scorer when Olimpija last played in the EuroLeague, in 2012-13, and since has kept himself busy as a contributor at some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Crvena Zvezda Belgrade, Baskonia Vitoria-Gastiez and FC Barcelona. With his return home, Blazic lends the new-look team instant credibility and offers scoring and leadership. At the prime of his career, Blazic looks poised for a big season.
The fans and management in the Slovenian capital dream that this season is just the start of something big. Cedevita Olimpija has an experienced and deep roster with players who have found success on the pan-European level before. They play for a new club formed from two that are steeped in history and have a fan base eager to push them on. How far will all of that take them? Only time will tell, but for starters, the goal will be to reach the Top 16 and grow from there.