It's a wrap! The 2020-21 7DAYS EuroCup season has finished and AS Monaco is the new champion! Monaco has become the first French League team to win the EuroCup title. That is even more remarkable because in 2013, when Sergey Dyadechko brought back the team, Monaco started in the French fourth division. It went to the French elite in record time and kept improving. First, it won three French Leaders Cup trophies and now, it has reached a new height, lifting the EuroCup trophy in a season that will always be remembered.
The playoffs were great, the finals were outstanding, with two of the best games you will see at any level this season, and both Monaco and UNICS Kazan have proved that they will be very competitive in the 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
There was something you probably didn't see and I have to explain because it is one of the best behind-the-scene moments in EuroCup history. As soon as UNICS got their runner-up medals, two Monaco players – Will Yeguete and Damien Inglis – rushed to the locker room, running as fast as they could. Everyone was wondering what was going on, but as soon as they came back, Mathias Lessort and Dee Bost also rushed to their locker room. I was the closest to it, so I wondered what happened and went there to see if I could help.
There was no need. They just wanted their phones to make videocalls with their family and friends, and take as many pictures as possible. It was great to see all Monaco fans calling their families and sharing this moment together. Something truly special.
Away from this situation, once Monaco lifted the trophy, Marcos Knight sat calmly in the podium with the game ball, which is always a precious item to collect when you win a championship. Asked about it, Knight had no doubt about who would get it. "I am going to give it to my son!” he said with a big smile on this face.
Hats off to UNICS, led by Mr. Evgeny Borisovich Bogachev, for their sportsmanship after such a tough loss. Mr. Bogachev and all UNICS player stood there while Monaco received their medals, gave their opponent a round of applause when they lifted the trophy, and only then headed to their locker room. It is easy to be a good winner, but behaving like champions when you lose is even more important to growth as a team.
A long-awaited opportunity to crown a champion
The day has finally arrived. For the first time in two years, a team has the chance to win the 7DAYS EuroCup title. That team, of course, is AS Monaco, which won Game 1 in its best-of-three series with UNICS Kazan and needs just one more victory to become the first French League champion in competition history.
Roca Team, as Monaco is nicknamed, published a nice video about its trip to Kazan, and brought its own TV crew to keep doing short videos. Make sure to follow them on social media for more insight information.
It is a sunny morning in Kazan and the game should be sold out before tipoff. One of the attractions of Game 2 is the presence of fans at the high point of this unusual season. UNICS has been able to play before crowds of varying sizes this season, and for this game, Basket Hall Kazan's capacity is limited to 70%, or 4,900 seats. As of this morning, fewer than 100 tickets are still available.
UNICS has distributed signs all over Basket Hall Kazan celebrating this, the club's 30th season. In the last half of those three decades, UNICS has been so much of an anchor club in the EuroCup that it owns most of the major absolute club records in the competition. Tonight's game will be its 231st in the EuroCup. Besides UNICS, only Valencia Basket (206) has reached the 200-game mark. Additionally, UNICS ranks first in EuroCup history with totals of 18,583 points, 7,991 rebounds and 3,626 assists. It ranks first, too, with 161 victories, but only fifth in losses, 69, thanks to a winning rate of 70.0% over 14 seasons. Impressive!
Monaco has won 10 of its last 12 EuroCup games and arrives in Kazan with great momentum after its comeback win at home in Game 1. UNICS has its back against the wall but has been in this situation before, earlier this season, and always survived. Tipoff is at 18:00 CET. Don't miss it!
Monaco puts in a full day's work before Game 2
AS Monaco has been working on Game 2 of the EuroCup Finals all day on Thursday, first with a physical conditioning session in the morning after the long trip to Kazan, and then on the court in the afternoon, 24 hours before the big showdown. It was all about polishing the small details to be even more competitive in the most decisive moment of the season.
As we mentioned in a previous blog post, Dee Bost led Stelmet Zielona Gora to an unexpected road win at Basket Hall Kazan in 2017, downing UNICS Kazan 54-71 to eliminate the Russian powerhouse in the EuroCup Eighthfinals.
"It was some years ago but I remember it," Bost said Thursday. "It was a must-game win for us; we had lost our previous game at home. We know it is always going to be a tough game when you play against UNICS. Like back then, we have to execute and be better."
Indeed, Bost tasked himself with playing better even after his team won Game 1 at home to take a 1-0 series lead.
"Me, myself, I have to be 10 times better. We pulled out the win against a great team, but I just have to be better for my team," he said post-game.
And that's despite the fact that Bost's Game 1 numbers were quite solid: 16 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls drawn and a PIR of 20.
"Personally, I think I can play better," he explained on Thursday. "I can always play better. There is always room for improvement. Nobody is perfect on the court... We know it is going to be tough. We know it is the finals, against a good, well-coached team with a lot of good players."
Of course, Bost has good memories at Basket Hall Kazan and hopes to create new ones, too. He and his Monaco teammate have the opportunity to win their first EuroCup title tomorrow. Stay tuned!
UNICS has completed its last full practice before Game 2 of the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals. Other than the first 15 minutes, which were open to the media, UNICS practiced behind closed doors. However, based on the sounds echoing through the gym, its intensity could be felt far from the main court. It sounded like a critical training session in which adjustments were being made.
UNICS gears up for Game 2 on Friday
UNICS stayed in the video room longer than expected, but all the media present at Basket Hall Kazan were in for a treat. UNICS president Mr. Evgeny B. Bogachev showed up for interviews. He spent 10 minutes talking to the Russian media. Mr. Bogachev is the Chairman of the National Bank of the Republic of Tatarstan and has been the club's president for almost 30 years since UNICS was founded. He turned UNICS into one of the most powerful clubs in Russian and European basketball, so his presence on the court was welcomed by local journalists.
Earlier, Okaro White showed up at Basket Hall for an individual shooting session. He shot for around 45-50 minutes, with no one else around but a UNICS trainer grabbing rebounds to get him the ball back.
"I would like to say I do this a good amount. It just helps me in the morning, when we have the morning off, to get ahead and just get some touch, especially when we have a game here coming up. I like to get in the gym and get some touch going," White said.
Asked about Game 2, White explained that the home-court advantage is not just about fans, offering a different angle. "Fans give you an advantage, of course, but also the fact that we played on these rims for 20+ games and this is also an advantage," he said. "But the main part is that when the ball goes up, it is going to be 0-0. We still have to go play and win."
Get to know Basket Hall Kazan
The EuroCup Finals are back in Kazan! After a travel day on Wednesday, both teams are settled in and hard at work preparing for Game 2 of the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals on Friday. AS Monaco is scheduled to practice twice today and to meet the press in the evening. UNICS Kazan's media availability is set for the afternoon. Before that, there will be a trophy ceremony rehearsal, which is always the case when a team has the chance to win the title in the next game. In this case, that team is Monaco.
Here is some interesting information about Basket Hall Kazan, which will host Game 2 – and, if necessary, Game 3 of the finals. The arena opened in August 2003 as the first dedicated basketball venue in Russia. It has a main basketball court with some 7,000 seats and a small hall used by junior teams and Kazan's women squad, Kazanochka Kazan. The arena was so successful that its plans were duplicated - twice. When Lokomotiv Kuban moved from Rostov to Krasnodar, its current location, it went to play at a different Basket Hall which used the same plans, distribution and structure as its older brother in Kazan. Basket Hall Krasnodar opened in August 2011 and hosted Game 1 of the 2018 EuroCup Finals.
There is a third Basket Hall that has also seen EuroLeague action. It is Yantarny Sports Palace and is located in the city of Kaliningrad in western Russia. CSKA Moscow hosted a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague game there on December 26, 2019, and defeated AX Armani Exchange Milan 78-75 behind 28 points from Daniel Hackett, who faced his former team.
Three venues around Russia with the same structure and good basketball in common. Few games have been as important as this in any of these venues. Monaco visits UNICS with the chance to lift the trophy!
Comebacks and ambushes in Kazan
Wednesday is travel day in the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals as Game 1 winner AS Monaco heads to enemy territory to try to ambush former champion UNICS Kazan in Russia on Friday evening and take the champions trophy.
Of course, due to their agreement before the series, Kazan is also the last stop of this series. If UNICS can hold serve on its home court in Game 2, Basket Hall Kazan will be the scene of a do-or-die third game for all the marbles just 48 hours later, on Sunday.
Fortunately for UNICS, this season's EuroCup MVP, Jamar Smith, knows all about rallying from a 1-0 deficit in the EuroCup playoffs. He did that twice with Unicaja in 2017, first recovering opening-game defeats in the quarterfinals against FC Bayern Munich, and then doing the same in the finals against Valencia Basket. Smith played a big role in those finals, scoring 20 points in Game 2 and then 8 of his 10 points in the tiebreaker over the final 7 minutes, helping Unicaja rally from a 13-point deficit to lift the trophy.
Smith and UNICS have also overcome three do-or-die situations this season, winning Game 3 in the quarterfinals against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and in the semifinals against Virtus Segafredo Bologna. Smith delivered each time, scoring 19 points in Game 3 against Loko 24 in Game 3 on the road in Bologna.
At the same time, Monaco knows that eliminating UNICS in Kazan is not an easy thing. The Russian powerhouse is 10-1 at home this season, losing only against Joventut Badalona. There is one Monaco player, however, who knows what it takes to stop UNICS against all odds.
Dee Bost was pivotal for Stelmet Zielona Gora of Poland when it faced UNICS in the 2016 EuroCup Eighthfinals. Things looked good for UNICS as it won the first leg of the two-way series in Poland, 68-72. But Zielona Gora took the series by surprising UNICS 54-71 in the second leg on the road, with Bost playing one of the best games in his EuroCup career: 17 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and a PIR of 25.
Bost had another good all-around performance – 12 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 fouls drawn – when Monaco defeated UNICS in Kazan last season, 78-84. So, Bost not only knows what it takes win at Basket Hall Kazan, but even has experience in eliminating UNICS.
UNICS hosts Monaco on Friday in Game 2 at 18:00 CET. If you saw Game 1, an instant classic, you shouldn't miss Friday's rematch!
Au revoir from Monaco
The dust has settled here at Stade Louis II and AS Monaco has a 0-1 lead in the EuroCup Finals, which now moves to Kazan for Game 2. Far from done, Monaco players were pointing out mistakes after the game, showing they have the ambition and character of a championship-level team. Marcos Knight was putting up shots in both baskets after the game and was still shooting half an hour after the final buzzer. Rob Gray was not happy with his performance in clutch time.
"I don't think I was clutch tonight; I missed a three at the end and missed a free throw. I need to get in the gym, but I am glad we were able to pull it out in the end with those last defensive stops and defensive rebound to get the win. Shout out to the bigs for contesting Theodore's right-hand layup," Gray said.
Some final words from here about Monaco the team and its motto, since we will be leaving town in a few hours. In case you are wondering about why Monaco is called Roca Team, the explanation is very simple. It is named after the Rock of Monaco, one of the main attractions in the country, a 62-meter tall monolith overlooking Monte Carlo's port and the Mediterranean coast. Today, the Rock is in the oldest of Monaco's four quarters, Monaco-Ville, which is also the location of Old Town, the oldest part of the city.
You might have noticed the slogan "Daghe Munegu" on TV, or just everywhere around the team. We asked and it means "Go Monaco" in the local language, Monegasque. As for Roca Team itself, AS Monaco is one of the oldest clubs in France, founded in 1928. It went out of business from 1991 to 2014, which is when Sergey Dyadechko brought it back. In four years, Monaco went from the fourth French division (NM2) to the elite level (Pro A). We could go on, but Monaco Now published this amazing video on Twitter explaining it better than anyone else.
It is going to be a long journey but we will eventually make it. 7DAYS EuroCup fans, see you in Kazan!
UNICS has arrived to Monaco
Everything is set for the EuroCup Finals, as UNICS Kazan arrived to Monaco and is already practicing at Stade Louis II. All players went straight to the locker room but Dimitris Priftis and his team quickly got on court to prepare an important pre-game practice.
UNICS had a two-hour delay in its charter flight from Kazan to Nice, and needed a stop-over in Kaliningrad to refuel. "Yes, we have to stop in Kaliningrad, near Poland, it is a part of Russia," UNICS playmaker Jordan Theodore confirmed. "So we stopped there for 45 minutes to refuel, and then two and a half hours from there to here. It wasn't so bad."
Theodore praises UNICS for the many charter flights the team took back and forth to Kazakhstan and Siberia to play VTB League games, and then again fly to Monaco. "UNICS has been doing a really good job taking care of us. We have been chartering a lot. That has been really good on our bodies. I don't even know how many miles we flew this week, but it was quick and easy, and we made it here safe."
Of course, the excitement of playing the EuroCup Finals is all over the place and Theodore is not an exception. "We have been able to make it this far, and nothing else really matters. We have 40 minutes, it is not going to be easy but we are here and the goal is not complete," he said. By the way, stay tuned for a special article on him and his wife, Tugba Theodore, coming up on EuroCupBasketball.com later on this week.
UNICS arrived here without Jordan Morgan, who will not play in the entire series, the club confirmed upon arrival. Morgan went down with a severe injury in Game 3 of the EuroCup Semifinals against Virtus Segafredo Bologna.
The teams are ready, and it is going to be a great EuroCup Finals, starting right here in Monaco tomorrow, Tuesday, Arpil 27, at 18:30 CET!
Finals Blog: Game 1 comes to rare, legendary arena
The EuroCup Finals are officially underway with the first media availability at the Salle Gaston Medecin, located at the basement of Stade Louis II. Even when AS Monaco has separate budgets in football and basketball and the two work as different clubs, the basketball arena is under the football stadium in the same sports complex. It is built on artificial ground, too.
In 1979, then prince of Monaco, Rainier III, decided to use land reclaimed from the sea to create the complex. The construction started in 1981, and along with the basketball hall and the football stadium, also used for track and field events, it features an Olympic-sized pool, three smaller pools and 15 smaller sports facilities used by local professionals and amateurs.
And let's not forget that the original Dream Team got ready for the 1992 Olympics in this very same place. This is where a legendary practice game in which nine future Hall of Famers faced each other took place. Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson still describe it as the greatest basketball game they ever played. The game took place behind closed doors but we have met some people working for the club who were there and worked as ballboys at that historical showdown, and confirmed it was completely amazing. Hours later, the team took a flight to Barcelona and made basketball history.
"Right. It's crazy," Rob Gray told us when we spoke about it. "It is significant that the Dream Team played here but that was long ago. We are focusing on something new in this arena, in this gym, which is winning the EuroCup Finals. It would be an amazing deal, and we are looking forward, focused and try to do that.
"We know what is at stake, what is up for grabs. We get the chance to play the first game here, and we have to take care of business and win on our home court."
Gray was really happy about being chosen as the EuroCup Semifinals MVP, but definitely wants more. "I am thankful for being the position to help the team win, and being able to show the work I put in over the years. But we are far from finished! We need two wins out of three and the EuroCup Finals MVP is a whole lot more significant," Gray told us. "That is what I am trying to accomplish, personally, to try to become champions this year."
Finals Blog: A crowning moment returns, at last
Welcome to the 2021 7DAYS EuroCup Finals Blog. This is Javier Gancedo, checking in from Monaco, and I will be telling you all about the finals from now on until a champion is crowned!
Even when the finals are played in a best-of-three format, AS Monaco and UNICS Kazan agreed to change the venues for the first two games to avoid complications due to national restrictions concerning the global COVID-19 pandemic. Monaco will host Game 1 on Tuesday at Stade Louis II, then UNICS plays at home in Game 2 and, if needed, Game 3. As such, it is guaranteed that whoever lifts the trophy will do so at Basket Hall Kazan in Russia later this week.
This is the first EuroCup Finals for AS Monaco, which can become the first French League team to win the EuroCup title. None of its players have been at this stage before. UNICS, on the other hand, is seeking a second EuroCup crown in this, its third finals appearance. Four of UNICS players – Evgeny Kolesnikov, Pavel Sergeev, Kostas Kaimakoglou and Pavel Antipov – were part of the team that reached the 2014 EuroCup Finals. Their teammate Jamar Smith, the freshly-crowned EuroCup MVP, lifted the trophy with Unicaja Malaga in 2017.
In preparation for the finals, UNICS had a really busy week before traveling to Monaco. In four VTB League games, UNICS beat Astana in Kazakhstan on Saturday, April 17, downed Parma Perm on Tuesday, went to Novosibirsk in Siberia to defeat Enisey on Thursday, and fell at home to Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar on Sunday.
Monaco is also doing well, having defeated Boulogne Metropolitans 92 on Tuesday and Strasbourg on Friday. Coincidentally, Metropolitans was a EuroCup quarterfinalist this season and Strasbourg is the only previous French League team to reach the EuroCup Finals, losing against Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul in 2016.
Get ready for a very exciting week of basketball! Two long years have passed since Valencia Basket overcame ALBA Berlin in 2019 to become the last champion, but the EuroCup Finals are back, just as exciting as ever, and ready to crown a new king!