To begin with, ratiopharm Ulm found a new coach in former Turkish Airlines EuroLeague great Jaka Lakovic. Thorsten Leibenath, who coached the team for the last eight seasons, is now Ulm's sports director. Ulm also made a lot of roster changes, looking for a new identity that matches Lakovic's ambition, and brought in eight new players. Killian Hayes, Tyler Harvey and Zoran Dragic are set to see a lot of playing time together and bring in a nice mix of talent, youth, experience and enthusiasm. Ulm also signed center Grant Jerrett, three-point treat Andreas Obst, and forwards Patrick Heckmann, Seth Hinrichs and Derek Willis. Ulm also kept key players such as Per Guenther -- in his 12th season with the club – Gavin Schilling and Maximilian Ugrai. With a new core of players plus a new head coach, Ulm will need more adjustment than others, but expect this team to surprise some of its opponents along the way.
At age 18, Hayes is a calculated risk at the point guard position. Athletic, versatile and physical, he can guard virtually anyone on defense and runs the floor like few other players in Europe. As soon as he improves his shooting range and gets some experience, Hayes will be virtually unstoppable. Guenther and Stoll will help him with point guard duties. Guenther knows the club better than anyone and plays a key role in the locker room, but is also a clutch player who always thinks team first. Stoll will fight for playing time with high intensity. Harvey and Obst are set to provide the fireworks at shooting guard. Harvey is a natural-born scorer, a combo guard with unlimited range and great determination. Obst is a three-point specialist able to change any game, automatic from beyond the arc. Dragic is the most experienced player in the team and is set to play a critical role. His driving skills, great character and ballhandling are well-known already. Heckmann is a tough, coachable swingman with deep range, always ready to put everything on the floor to make his team better.
Willis is an interesting, intriguing signing; a versatile forward who can help on the boards, take three-point shots and score in many ways. He will see most of his playing time at small forward, as Ulm is very deep at the 'four' spot. An excellent shooter from any distance, Hinrichs is set to open the floor as a stretch power forward. He has a high basketball IQ, takes good decisions and is very active on defense, collecting steals and powering the glasses. Schilling is a very tough player who rebounds well at both ends, giving Ulm intensity and energy off the bench. Ugrai is another big man with deep range but also an effective scorer in the paint, with fast hands and good coordination. Up-and-coming prospect Mate Fazekas will fight for playing time. He is a modern big man who can pull the trigger from downtown. Grant Jerrett will be Ulm's main reference in the paint due to his size, experience and versatility. Nicolas Bretzel should see minutes as backup center to make the most out his size and intimidation.
PLAYER TO WATCH
A lot of Ulm's chances to make it to the Top 16 will depend on Harvey's ability to put the ball into the basket. Harvey was the NCAA's scoring leader in the 2014-15 season at 23.1 points per game and has played in France, France and the G League before joining Ulm. Even when he never reached the same scoring level he had in college, Harvey is in a great situation - a team that likes to play run-and-gun basketball and a coach like Lakovic who was one of the best scoring guards in Europe in the 2000s and who should help him reach the next level in his career. Above all, Harvey is a great scorer either off the dribble and running off screens, who doesn't need a lot of space to execute his shot. Not the best slasher, Harvey prefers to stop and take a mid-range shot. Playing alongside a lightning quick guard like Hayes is good for him, as he thrives in transition, where he can find many shots. If Lakovic brings out his best version, Harvey could easily be one of the best scorers in the EuroCup this season.
With so many new players and a new coach, Ulm will need some time to reach its full potential. Defining the right playing style will be equally important. Ulm has quick guards and many great three-point shooters pretty much in all spots, so playing up-tempo must be a must for Coach Lakovic's team. In order to play fast, however, Ulm must be really good on defense and this is where Coach Lakovic should put all of his emphasis right now. With three very good teams in its group - Segafredo Virtus Bologna, MoraBanc Andorra and AS Monaco - Ulm needs to fight for a Top 16 spot with two EuroCup newcomers, Promitheas Patras and Maccabi Rishon Lezion. This is the kind of team that will grow a lot as the season goes by, so Ulm must stay strong at home to challenge for a Top 16 spot and keep believing in what it does to get better later in the season.