Wednesday's Round 2 showdown in Group C between Virtus Segafredo Bologna and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar marks a first-time clash not only between two of the signature clubs in the 7DAYS EuroCup, but also between a pair of centers with different styles who impressed last season in their competition debuts, Julian Gamble for the hosts and Alan Williams for the visitors.
At 2.08 meters and 31 years old, Gamble has worked his way up through Belgium, Germany and France to reach the EuroCup at age 30 last season and play a key role as a double-digit scorer on one of the competition's top teams before the pandemic cut the season short.
Williams is a different model of center, standing a strong 2.01 meters and showing a penchant for rebounds like few players that size. His dominant work on the boards, however, was not enough to save Lokomotiv from a rare early exit thanks to a two-point loss in the team's last regular-season game.
As the stats graphic from their first season in the EuroCup shows, Gamble and Williams bring different strengths to the same position.
Using his superior height, Gamble was the surest of shots in the paint, making 69.4% of his two-pointers. That gaudy figure ranked him ninth overall in two-point accuracy and second among EuroCup players who made 50 or more such baskets. He also swatted away 16 shots on the season, the fifth-highest total in the EuroCup for the whole season.
Williams, meanwhile, was a beast on the boards, averaging 9.4 rebounds per game. That was the second-highest average for anyone playing a 10-game EuroCup Regular Season in the last decade. Williams averaged slightly fewer blocks than Gamble (0.7 to 0.8) but was a more prolific passer both in totals for the season (20 to 9) and average (2.0 to 0.6), adding an extra dimension to Lokomotiv's offense.
One thing that shows from the shot charts from last season for both players is they do their damage exclusively in the paint. Of 108 two-pointers made between them, they attempted just 5 combined from further afield and made only 1 apiece, in each case from a step outside the paint. Williams concentrated most of his on the right side of the basket, while Gamble favored the left side, so keep an eye on that Wednesday.
Although both their teams won in Round 1, it was Williams who got off to the hotter start this season. He led Lokomotiv to an 89-72 home win over Telenet Giants Antwerp with his 19 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks, good for a PIR of 30, fifth-best in opening week. Gamble started in Virtus's 61-76 road win at Lietkabelis Panevezys but got into foul trouble and only ended up playing 8 minutes without scoring, a first in his 17-game EuroCup career. Gamble will be determined to bound back strong when his team plays its first home game on Wednesday.