The perennial 7DAYS EuroCup contender and former champion Unics Kazan has made changes in and around its team by revamping its roster and putting a new man in charge of it. Head coach Dimitris Priftis returns to the competition for the second time, after making his debut with Aris Thessaloniki in the 2015-16 season, and is set to guide a Unics team with high ambitions. He also has a lot of new pieces around him, like back-up point guard Pavel Sergeev, or sharpshooters Evgeny Kolesnikov and reigning EuroCup champ Jamar Smith. Unics also acquired Italian League MVP Melvin Ejim and fellow forwards Trent Lockett and Vladislav Trushkin, all while making big changes in the paint with the additions of former EuroCup champion Stephane Lasme, as well as big men Martins Meiers and Grigory Shukhovtcov.
Unics has quite a formidable playmaking duo it carries over from last season with Quino Colom and Anton Ponkrashov. While Colom is one of the best point guards on the continent, Ponkrashov has size that allows him to play any perimeter position. Both are entering their third seasons at Unics. Veteran point guard Sergeev, in his third stint with the club, will be a safety option from the bench. That trio is surrounded on the perimeter with plenty of firepower. The additions of veteran shooting guard Jamar Smith and swingman Trent Lockett will give Unics strong scoring options, but there is also plenty of depth with players willing to prove themselves on this stage. Sharpshooters Evgeny Kolesnikov and Danilo Andjusic, the latter of whom is one of the few players left over from last season, as well as small forward Vladislav Trushkin, will all be lurking from the wings to knock down shots.
A revamped front line got a huge boost with everything that Melvin Ejim brings to the team on both ends of the floor, from athleticism to versatility for being able to play both forward positions. Another great new presence in the paint will be former EuroLeague Best Defender Trophy winner Stephane Lasme. The last time that the veteran big man played in the competition, he was the EuroCup Finals MVP and lifted the trophy with Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul in 2016. Set to start his sixth season with Unics is a reliable veteran power forward Kostas Kaimakoglou, a former EuroLeague champion with Panathinaikos, whose huge experience goes a long way. Another veteran, Grigory Shukhovtcov, was brought in to provide depth at center position, while undersized center Martins Meiers is a hard worker who will bring a great deal of energy to this group. Andrey Koscheev hopes to make his presence felt inside, while youngster Aleksandr Bille has a chance to learn a lot from the proven veterans.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Melvin Ejim had a solid EuroCup debut season in 2014-15 when his Virtus Rome reached the eighthfinals. Three seasons later, however, Ejim returns to the competition as the reigning Italian League MVP and domestic champion, determined to make another step in the right direction. An athletic player who does a great job on both ends of the floor, a dangerous scorer, great in transition and reliable on the glass, Ejim looks to be a motor on this Unics team. And with Quino Colom as his point guard, Ejim sure seems destined to make quite a few highlight reels in his second EuroCup season.
Never shying away from being a contender and a competition favorite, Unics is ready to grasp that role once again this season. A deep team filled with former winners and experienced veterans, mixed with rising talents who have a chance to prove themselves on a bigger stage, all guided by an up-and-coming head coach poised to succeed, Unics has the look of a squad hunting for success. Hungry for more victories, this team seems to have serious defensive potential and a dangerous offense, which makes Unics a team that just might enter every single EuroCup contest as a favorite this upcoming season.