Just a few months removed from reaching the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals, AS Monaco is almost starting anew with just three returning players. Head coach Zvezdan Mitrovic leads the charge of eight new faces, several of whom played in the French League last season. Mitrovic will begin his second spell in Monaco after helping the club raise its profile during a four-year stretch that began in 2014. Marcos Knight, Khadeen Carrington, Yohan Choupas, Abdoulaye Ndoye and Rudy Demahis-Ballou are his recruits in the backcourt, while Wesley Saunders, Damien Inglis and Darral Willis will provide power upfront.
Veteran point guard Dee Bost is one of the few returning Monaco players from last season and he can be counted on to be Coach Mitrovic's floor general. After all, the two partnered in 2016-17 and led Monaco to the best record in the French League and a Leaders Cup triumph. The speedy Bost is an aggressive defender and a clever ball distributor. Knight was the MVP of last season's German League end-of-season tournament and has been a top-level scorer at every stop in his career. Carrington, a combo-guard who was the final signing of the preseason, ranked third in the German League in scoring last season with 17.2 points. This trio of guards ensures that the Monaco backcourt will always have speed and put pressure on the opposing defense. Ndoye is a classic "complete" player who was a double-digit scorer for Cholet in the French League last season. He is a tough defender, an accomplished passer and can help out on the boards and get the transition attack in motion. Mitrovic will have two more young guards on the roster to develop. Choupas, 20, and Demahis-Ballou, 18, are products of the French national sports institute and eager to see their roles grow. Choupas has been a rotation player for the past two seasons with Pau Orthez. Demahis-Ballou will play at this level for the first time.
J.J. O'Brien was Monaco's top scorer in the EuroCup last season (12.8 ppg.) despite coming off the bench in two-thirds of his games. He does most of his damage in the mid-range game. Saunders gives the team another powerful scorer at the forward spot. A clever player, he is a good fit for Mitrovic's system. Just 25 years of age, Inglis is already well-traveled and experienced. His strength, scoring ability and passing make him a tough man to stop around the basket. Wilfried Yeguete is one of the top rebounders on the continent and ranked second in the EuroCup in per-minute rebounding last season with an average of 13.6 per 40 minutes. Willis has star potential and showed it regularly last season with Nizhny Novgorod in the VTB United League where he posted impressive numbers for a then 23-year-old big man.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Darral Willis has only two seasons of professional experience under his belt and he has shined in both of them. He led Keravnos to a Cypriot double as a rookie and earned MVP honors for the Cup. Then he went for 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds in the VTB United League last season with Nizhny Novgorod. An efficient scorer, the athletic lefty made 59.5% of his two-pointers and 82.2% of his free throws this past season. Willis is certain to add more to his game this season thanks to playing alongside a crafty veteran in Stimac and the multiple ball-handlers on the roster will find him when he is open near the rim.
Questions abound in Monaco, which is essentially a brand-new team with a new coach. However, the squad is rich in talent, depth and experience, the coach is a proven winner and the club has a strong tradition. After reaching the quarterfinals last season, Monaco will aim high once again. Monaco does not have to hit the ground running to have a great season since it is likely to only get stronger as the season goes on. If the players build chemistry and everything comes together, Monaco's prospects are very promising this season.