In the 7DAYS EuroCup for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign (the competition's original season!), Montakit Fuenlabrada has put together a competitive squad. Fuenlabrada kept most of its core players from last season as well as head coach Jota Cuspinera and added reliable players all around the roster. Ludde Hakanson and Carlos Cabezas arrived at point guard, but the club also signed forward Ian O'Leary, scoring ace Francisco Cruz and big men Moussa Diagne and Blagota Sekulic, the latter of whom is one of the two former EuroCup champions on the team.
Fuenlabrada players had well-defined roles last season and its leader was two-time EuroCup champion Marko Popovic, who is faces a unique opportunity. A great shooter and competitive character, Popovic needs 110 points to become the EuroCup's all-time top scorer; he enters the season fifth with 1,078 points (Mire Chatman is first at 1,187). Popovic already leads the EuroCup in three-pointers made with 188. Cabezas and Hakanson are very different point guards. Cabezas is an experienced and determined playmaker with a history of great clutch performances, while Hakanson is a pass-first guard who can help Fuenlabrada in many ways. Cruz, who played with Hakanson at VEF Riga last season, is a physical and intense off-guard with great scoring skills and a perfect complement for Ivan Paunic, an explosive swingman in the prime of his career. Alex Llorca gives Coach Cuspinera more intensity and defense off the bench.
O'Leary is an interesting player due to his aggressiveness and versatility. He is a modern power forward, a hard-nosed defender able to put the ball on the floor or hit the outside shot. Sekulic gives Fuenlabrada plenty of experience as well as solid post skills, determination and rebounds from the center position. Diagne returns to Fuenlabrada to provide size, athleticism and intensity. Homegrown talent Rolands Smits should have an extended role this season. His combination of size and versatility can turn him into a mismatch for most defenders. David Wear is a team-oriented, mobile forward who plays really well without the ball and can open the floor with his outside shooting, while Chema Gonzalez is a very efficient center with good shot-blocking skills and a great work ethic.
PLAYER TO WATCH
With so many veterans in the team, Hakanson has the chance to get even better. Just like Diagne, Hakanson arrived on loan from FC Barcelona Lassa after a breakthrough season in which he showed great leadership skills for both VEF Riga of Latvia and Baloncesto Sevilla of Spain. Hakanson likes to get everyone involved and is never afraid to pull the trigger from downtown. On defense, Hakanson collects the occasional steal due to his high basketball IQ and puts pressure on rival point guards with good intensity. He draws fouls often and is a reliable free throw shooter (81% in Seville last season). Hakanson seems to be a perfect complement to both Cabezas and Popovic and at age 20, Hakanson is among the front runners to win the EuroCup Rising Star award.
Fuenlabrada will not have it easy in a tough regular season group with three former EuroCup champions - Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Valencia Basket. Fuenlabrada will face them in the first three weeks of the regular season, so it all need to be ready right away to face a tough calendar in November and December. Indeed, Fuenlabrada will play four of its last six games on the road, finishing the regular season at home against Union Olimpija Ljubljana. Add the fact that Popovic will get closer and closer to the scoring record and it is safe to say there are exciting times ahead for Fuenlabrada fans.