The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia champion returns to the 7DAYS EuroCup after two years away with a brand new team and a new head coach. MZT Aerodrom Skopje handed the reigns of the team to coach Emil Rajkovic and brought in many new pieces. Among them are a quartet of big men in rookie Josh Scott and veterans Jure Lalic, Uros Lucic and high-flying Jeremiah Massey. On the other hand, Xavier Thames and Charlon Kloof make up the new backcourt mates who should provide for plenty of scoring and playmaking, while hometown addition Marko Simonovski is the team’s new shooting guard.
MZT will rely on the playmaking of its newly acquired combo-guards Thames and Kloof, but the team’s top scorer from last season, Djordje Drenovac, is expected to remain in the role of go-to-guy. Drenovac has a lot more help around him, and it is not just Thames and Kloof, but also Simonovski, who last season drained 43% of his threes in the Macedonian League. In addition, fans will be anxious to see what two promising young players – Adem Mekic and Andrej Cvetovski – have to offer at the EuroCup level.
MZT has an all-new frontcourt, too. Rookie Josh Scott and veteran Jure Lalic will share time at center, with Scott expected to be the top rim protector, while Lalic has good shooting range for his 2.11 meters. If Scott gets paired up on the floor with forward Jeremiah Massey, opponents will think twice before trying to get to the rim, while Uros Lucic, who returns to the club for a second stint after a year away, has developed outside range late in his career, which helps to keep opposing defenses honest.
It remains to be seen how long will it take for this new team to jell together, but MZT’s roster is made up of a combination of experience and youth. With several key players making their EuroCup debuts, including Cloof, Drenovac and Scott, the team will surely have an extra spark and motivation to prove itself on the big stage. And it will be somewhat of a basketball holiday in the Macedonian capital when some of the great names of European basketball come to town, including Unicaja Malaga and FC Bayern Munich. MZT will look to improve on its appearance from the 2013-14 campaign – which it finished with a 1-9 record – and see if it can sneak into the Top 16.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Despite this being his EuroCup debut, Djordje Drenovac is a player definitely capable of leaving a mark on the competition this season. At the age of 24, Drenovac is a tall swingman who found his scoring touch last season, which he finished as one of top scorers in the Adriatic League. A native of Serbia, Drenovac had a journey to the elite competitions similar to the one taken by his countryman and former Turkish Airlines EuroLeague MVP Nemanja Bjelica. Both of them played at the same club in Austria at very young age, and both were required to take a longer path to the basketball top level. MZT hopes Drenovac will use the opportunity to show what he is capable of, because the ball will be in his hands.