Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar comes into the season once again with lofty expectations of going deep in the 7DAYS EuroCup. The 2013 champion and 2018 runner-up bounced back last season to reach the quarterfinals – where it fell to UNICS Kazan – after having failed to advance from the regular season in 2019-20 for the first time in seven seasons in the competition. Coach Evgeniy Pashutin is back at the helm and has a loaded roster that will give sleepless nights to opposing teams.
The backcourt features one of the EuroCup’s all-time bests as Errick McCollum joins Lokomotiv from fellow Russian side Khimki Moscow Region. The 33-year-old McCollum is a former EuroCup champion and MVP – in 2016 with Galatasaray Istanbul – and ranks fourth on the all-time EuroCup scoring charts. The main point guard duties will be handled by Darius Thompson, who will be making his EuroCup debut after he helped Italian club Happy Casa Brindisi to new heights last season. The backcourt includes another former EuroCup champ in Stanton Kidd, who won the title with Darussfaka Istanbul in 2018. The heady Kidd provides Pashutin with a reliable scoring option and tough defensive presence on the wings. Small forward Stanislav Ilnitskiy is back for his fifth straight season with the club and coming off his most productive campaign yet. Zakhar Vedishchev is a product of the youth system – and the son of team president Andrey Vedishchev – who rejoined the team this summer after a season of college basketball in the United States. After some time away on loan, Sasha Shcherbenev returns to play a bigger role as a scorer off the bench. Promising Vladislav Emchenko, a 20-year-old point guard whom the club signed on a five-year contract, will get chances, too. The 34-year-old Ivan Paunic is also back to provide experience and toughness where needed.
There is plenty of punch in Lokomotiv’s frontcourt as well. Greg Whittington will likely be the starting power forward as he returns to Europe after playing in the NBA last season. Whittington will look to build on his strong EuroCup debut in 2019-20 with Galatasaray Istanbul, for which he scored 12.5 points on 48.4% three-point shooting and was among the top 10 in the league with 6.4 rebounds per game. Johnathan Motley brings his elite athleticism to the center spot after he finished top-five in scoring, rebounds and blocks in South Korea last season. Lokomotiv will be excited to welcome back star big man Alan Williams, who was leading the EuroCup in rebounding with 9.4 boards per game last season when he suffered a season-ending knee injury, when he completes his recovery. Veteran forward Vladislav Trushkin is back in the EuroCup after playing last season in the EuroLeague with Zenit St Petersburg. Pashutin also has some young Russian frontcourt players to call upon. Center Andrei Martiuk, 21, started seven games last season. Another home-grown center, 20-year-old Valerii Kalinov, signed a deal with the team until 2025. Kalinov debuted in the EuroCup last season. Forward Sergei Dolinin, 21, has been a part of the extended roster for the past two seasons.
PLAYER TO WATCH
With all the weapons on this Lokomotiv roster, the key to the season may be Darius Thompson, who will be pulling the strings as the point guard. Thompson helped Brindisi reach the Italian League semifinals for the first time in club history and that came after the team finished a club-best second in the league during the regular season. Thompson also helped Brindisi reach the second group phase of the Basketball Champions League and earned All-BCL Second Team honors. After leading the Dutch League in scoring in 2018-19 with ZZ Leiden - and being named league MVP - Thompson has shown his all-around game, leading the Italian League in steals and finishing third in assists last season. Now in his fourth professional season, Thompson has the keys to a EuroCup powerhouse.
Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar must be considered a title contender every season in the EuroCup – if nothing else because of its past history in the competition. But Pashutin has supreme talent all over his roster and significant depth as well. Lokomotiv also has proven winners and will be out to finally add another EuroCup crown to its trophy from 2013.