Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana will look different this season with a club legend on the bench. Jurica Golemac took over the head coaching position in late January and now leads the team for the first time from the start of the season. He will have nearly a dozen new faces at his disposal. Cedevita Olimpija has brought Kendrick Perry and Rion Brown to run the show alongside veteran point guard Roko Ukic. Sharpshooter Alen Hodzic, and youngsters Rok Radovic, Egor Sytnikov and Dan Duscak will all be making their respective 7DAYS EuroCup debuts. The same is true for the additions in the front line - Mangok Mathiang and Ziga Dimec.
Cedevita will rely a lot on the backcourt duo of Perry and Brown. Perry is a point guard who can also carry the scoring load after improving his accuracy from downtown last season. Brown is an athletic do-it-all swingman with a knack for scoring, too. The two will have a helping hand in a veteran point guard Ukic, who returns for a third stint with the organization; he has two prior stints with Cedevita Zagreb. Ukic's leadership will be key for this inexperienced team, just like that of team captain Jaka Blazic whose energy on both ends of the floor is what often fuels the team. The rest of Cedevita Olimpija's backcourt is new to the competition. Shooting guard Alen Hodzic is at the prime of his career after getting called up to the Slovenian national team last season. Teenage guards Radovic, Sytnikov and Duscak are not only eager to display their talents on the EuroCup scene for the first time, but to prove themselves to the club as pillars who can be built around in the future.
Three important frontcourt contributors remain from last season. One is Edo Muric, a fan-favorites as the team's starting forward. He is a veteran with four seasons of EuroCup experience under his belt and coming off a career-best campaign in terms of three-point shooting (41.9%). Athletic big man Mikael Hopkins can also stretch the floor and has played a lot despite coming off the bench, which could once again be his role. Center Ivan Marinkovic is a reliable rebounder and big presence in the paint. Marinkovic joined the team in February, but despite playing in just a pair of Slovenian League games, he has a great understanding of the system, having been together with Coach Golemac since 2018 at their previous club Koper Primorska. This group got a monster boost with the arrival of center Mangok Mathiang, another player making his EuroCup debut, but who has all the tools to be a dominant force in the paint on both sides of the floor. The other frontcourt piece is center Ziga Dimec who does all his work close to the basket and compliments this frontline, which shapes to be Cedevita Olimpija's strength.
Player to watch
Mangok Mathiang is not your usual EuroCup rookie. The soon-to-be 28-year old is a native of South Sudan who grew up in Australia and whose career took off after turning pro in 2017. The past two seasons, ever since he arrived to play in Europea, Mathiang has gotten even better. The big man has posted double-digit rebounding season averages in every single competition he played, including a monster campaign in the Turkish League with Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul last season, in which he averaged 12.7 points, a league-leading 10.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. The team depth in the frontcourt should serve Mathiang well and could help him adapt quicker and better, as he will not have the expectations to carry the load. Although, Mathiang might very well be capable of single-handedly doing just that. It will be interesting to see how he fares against his fellow big men on this stage.
Cedevita Olimpija has a very intriguing mix of experienced veterans, talented EuroCup newcomers and promising youngsters for this season. The team has what shapes up to be a very deep frontcourt where everyone can contribute, while also boasting several backcourt pieces who can put up points on the scoreboard in bunches. With great tradition and history in the Slovenian capital, this squad can be counted on to play with great pride and push to get as far as it can in the EuroCup campaign. The club has never hidden its high ambitions and despite some disappointments in recent years, not much will change this season; the bar is once again set high. It is one step at the time, however, and Cedevita Olimpija will first need to aim to get through a challenging EuroCup regular season group where it will face Promitheas Patras, Herbalife Gran Canaria, Dolomiti Energia Trento, Nanterre 92 and a newcomer Frutti Extra Bursaspor.