Roster Rundown: UNICS Kazan

Sep 26, 2018 by Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Roster Rundown: UNICS Kazan

WHAT'S NEW:

After reaching the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals last season, UNICS doubled down on many of its players and on head coach Dimitris Priftis, but also found room for some strong new arrivals. The last of those, Errick McCollum, made the biggest splash, as only a former EuroCup title-winner and MVP can. McCollum brings all kinds of firepower in his deadly hands. Also new to the backcourt is Pierria Henry, a rising presence in the competition. On the frontline, UNICS brought back familiar faces in forward Maxim Sheleketo and center Artem Klimenko, both of who played in Kazan before, while inviting even more impact from seasoned scorer Raymar Morgan, a true competitor who should balance out an already strong roster quite well.

BACKCOURT:

With the departure of long-time team leader Quino Colom, the reins were passed to McCollum and Henry, who both know how to run an offense. McCollum has a EuroCup scoring average of 19 points over two seasons and won the title with Galatasaray Istanbul in the last of those, 2015-16. Henry is more of a passer, but averaged 11 points while leading Tofas Bursa to the Turkish League finals last season. On the wings, Jamar Smith is the highest-scoring returnee for UNICS, after putting up 13.1 points per game last season. Anton Ponkrashov is a veteran contributor whose 2-meter size helps UNICS force mismatches. Swingmen Melvin Ejim and Trent Lockett will join the threats from the perimeter after both proved solid all-around players in their first season with the club. Veterans Evgeny Kolesnikov and Pavel Sergeev round out a backcourt that has plenty of versatility for the long haul.

FRONTCOURT:

Morgan, who also arrives from Bursa, was the eighth-best scorer in the EuroCup last season and has done nothing but get better and better, averaging 14.1 points and 5 rebounds on solid shooting over his three seasons in the competition. He'll join holdovers Maurice Ndour and Kostas Kaimakoglou. Ndour made his presence felt coming off the bench last season and is ready to do more. Kaimakoglou, starting his sixth season with Unics, missed most of the last one with an injury. When he's healthy, though, the former EuroLeague champion gives the team another dimension, that of a playmaking forward. When UNICS goes big, Klimenko and his 2.14 meters will be a part of that, while Sheleketo and Andrey Koshcheev bring added depth and experience to the inside game.

Trent Lockett - UNICS Kazan preseason (photo V. Stolis) - EC18

PLAYER TO WATCH:

The late signing of Errick McCollum is an indication that UNICS felt a need for someone of his experience and stature, so expect the ball in his hands a lot. McCollum has been a survivor as well as a scorer his whole career, rising through the ranks with his cool head and hot hand until he lifted Galatasaray to the EuroCup title two seasons ago. He has filled baskets wherever he has played, including last season in the EuroLeague, where he ranked fifth overall with 14.6 points per game for Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Though asked to shoot a lot, McCollum is also a steady presence, dishing enough assists to keep defenses honest and drawing fouls to hurt them double. UNICS has gone far in the past with top scorers, and McCollum is a candidate to make the same happen again for his new team.

OUTLOOK:

UNICS is always in the hunt for big things in the EuroCup. It has advanced past the regular season in all 11 editions that it has played and advanced to the quarterfinals or higher seven times, including last season. With basically a new backcourt and an otherwise solid core of players who got used to the club and coach last year, this team has a lot of potential. Scoring is a given, so how UNICS rebounds and defends will be the key to see just how high its perennial status as a contender for the title rises this season.