Unicaja Malaga takes another shot at the 7DAYS EuroCup with many new faces and the ambition to win the title for the second time, after having lifted the trophy in 2017 and reached the quarterfinals last season. A mix of experienced holdovers and newcomers promises that head coach Luis Casimiro will have plenty to work with in trying to reach new heights in 2019-20.
Unicaja made some additions in the off-season that can be expected to bring plenty of variety to the team. Probably, the most notorious name in EuroCup spheres is that of forward Melvin Ejim, who arrives from UNICS Kazan to bring speed and scoring. Another familiar name for EuroCup fans is center Frank Elegar, arriving directly from Tofas Bursa. Another big man, Deon Thompson arrives from Zalgiris Kaunas of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Also inside, Volodymyr Gerun will be a new card to be played by Unicaja this season as he makes his EuroCup debut. On the perimeter, multi-talented Axel Toupane was brought in from the EuroLeague late in the summer as a replacement for injured Dragan Milosavljevic. But the new faces do not stop there, as Unicaja also picked up Josh Adams and Aleksa Avramovic, making it a rather new version of the team for this season.
The backcourt line of Unicaja will probably start with Adams, who arrives from the other side of the pond, where he averaged 15.6 points and 4.4 assists per game last season with Toronto of the G-League. He will team up with local hero Alberto Diaz, who will hope to be healthy this season after missing most of the last one with injury. Avramovic, one of the best long-range shooters in Italy in recent seasons, will join point guard Jaime Fernandez, who became one of the most charismatic players on the team in his maiden season with Unicaja. On the wings, sharpshooter Adam Waczynski will be back to contribute his 44% from beyond the arc in 2018-19 and Toupane brings lots of EuroLeague experience as a deluxe replacement for Milosavljevic, out for months with a torn ACL. Ejim is one of the stellar additions for this new season as he has been one of the most consistent names for always-powerful UNICS Kazan over the last two seasons in the EuroCup.
Frank Elegar comes to Malaga to bring power to the paint. He has three EuroCup seasons under his belt and knows the ins and outs of the competition. Last season he averaged 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds for Tofas Bursa. Deon Thompson also brings years of exprience as both a rebounder and someone who can hit mid-range shots. Elegar and Thompson will look to form one of the most intimidating inside duos in the league. Young Ruben Guerrero remains the biggest man on the team and will hope for minutes to show his talents, while Volodymyr Gerun arrives from the Spanish League, where he averaged 11.3 points and 6.5 rebounds, to make his EuroCup debut this season. As a bridge between the frontcourt and the backcourt will be team captain Carlos Suarez, already in his seventh season with the club and just one of the three players still on Unicaja who lifted the EuroCup trophy three years ago.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jaime Fernandez is one of the few players remaining on the team from last season, which was his debut with Unicaja. This will be his fourth EuroCup season and he has improved year upon year until averaging 12.0 points, 4.6 assists and 2.6 rebounds with Unicaja last season. Now the time has come for Fernandez to show he can take the big step forward and be the leader of this team on the court. He extended his contract with the club during the summer, meaning that the directors and the coach have the faith in him. He had big games last season and against UNICS at home he netted 23 points for an index rating of 27, the best performance of his EuroCup career so far. Fernandez will surely look continue improving and he will have a solid group of teammates around him to make this Unicaja aim for the stars.
Unicaja Malaga always aspires to go all the way in the EuroCup. This season it will be no different, but the team coached by Luis Casimiro has undergone major changes at every position, making it practically a new team. So even if it may sound a bit cliche, Unicaja will need to start clicking fast if it wants to be on the right track in such an unforgiving competition as this one. The manpower is there, the experience is there and the ambition is also there. However, Group D is arguably one of the hardest in the regular season and Unicaja will not only have to protect its homecourt, but also look to triumph on the road to send a strong message.